The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on 3.12.1799

I.e. a bust of Bacchus in large size, i.e. larger than life, probably executed as an exercise after an antique original. The material of the bust is uncertain – the copy may have been in marble, as Th. Oppermann: Thorvaldsen, Copenhagen 1927, vol. II, p. 36 supposes, while Else Kai Sass: Thorvaldsens Portrætbuster, Copenhagen 1963-65, vol. I, p. 52 makes the more likely assumption that it was a modelled copy in plaster.
It is not known which Bacchus head Thorvaldsen copied, but it might have been a copy of the bust of Antinous as Bacchus, which is in the collections of the Vatican, and also in Thorvaldsen’s collection of casts, L165, and in the collection of casts of the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, inv.nr. KG 1086.
However, it might also be a copy of the large Bacchus head in Museo Capitolino in Rome, of which there is also a cast in Thorvaldsens Museum, L113. In the early 1800s, however, this very feminine Bacchus head was thought to represent Ariadne, cf. L. Müller: Fortegnelse over Gips-Afstøbningerne i Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen 1850, p. 16, a mistaken belief that Thorvaldsen apparently shared. In the documents regarding Theodor von der Ropp’s commission of this copy, Thorvaldsen consistently refers to the Bacchus head as Ariadne, see the related article about Ropp’s Commission 1804-05.


It is unlikely that the Bacchus head is an orginal work by Thorvaldsen since he does not bother to mention it in his letter to Abildgaard dated 30.6.1798, in which he lists the works he is sending to Copenhagen. Moreover, the Bacchus head was not exhibited at the Academy of Fine Arts unlike the “original” work that Thorvaldsen sent home in 1798, viz. Bacchus and Ariadne, A1, see the letter from the Academy dated 3.12.1799.
Here, it is also mentioned that no works by Thorvaldsen in marble were exhibited at the Academy, which suggests that the Bacchus Head is unlikely to have been executed in marble. In that case, Abildgaard would probably have exhibited it.

Last updated 08.01.2018