The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on Baptismal Font to Brahetrolleborg Church

The reliefs on the sides of the font are found in numerous later versions. The relief The Baptism of Christ is known with certainty to have been produced in a minimum of three versions: the relief on the baptismal font itself; the separate relief The Baptism of Christ, A736; and Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek cat. no. MIN 447. At the auction of some of Thorvaldsen’s effects held at Thorvaldsens Museum on October 5, 1849, no fewer than three plaster reliefs with the Baptism of Christ were offered for sale as cat. nos. 63-65, in the category of Works by Thorvaldsen in Plaster. Of these, no. 63 was evidently not sold, or sold prior to the auction date (in Thorvaldsens Museum’s copy of the auction list, the phrase “did not appear” is noted beside the item’s number); no. 64 was bought by the Spanish diplomat Don Leopoldo Augusto de Cueto (1815-1901), who had been posted to Copenhagen in 1847; no. 65 is recorded as having been bought by C. F. Wilckens, but afterwards the word Museet (‘the Museum’) was added in red, and on a sticker added to the back of the auction list, Ludvig Müller (1809-1891), then a museum inspector, recorded that Wilckens had bought no. 65 (among other items) for the museum: “That … No. 65 was bought for the Museum by Mr. Wilckens at the 2nd installment of Thorvaldsens Museum’s auction, is hereby attested to on November 20, 1849 by L. Müller.”
Without a doubt, No. 65 can only be identical to the relief The Baptism of Christ, A736. This relief differs from that on the baptismal font in part by the fact that the drapery covers somewhat more of the men’s bodies. With regard to the remaining two reliefs, it is unknown whether they were identical copies or variations; nor can it be determined whether they were original models or subsequent casts. As mentioned previously, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is in possession of another Baptism of Christ, here called Baptism of Jesus (cat. no. MIN 447), with clearly marked points for marble carving. Here, too, there are smaller divergences in motif from the Baptism of Christ on the Baptismal Font, A555,1, and from The Baptism of Christ, A736. The Glyptotek’s version is listed as having the following provenance: “Auction of Effects of Thorvaldsen, 1859. Bought [for the Glyptotek] by Thorvaldsen’s Valet W. Wilchens. Rasmus Secher Malthe. Carl Jacobsen 1880.” Cf. Jens Peter Munk, Katalog Dansk skulptur 1694-1889 [Catalogue of Danish Sculpture, 1694-1889], Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (Copenhagen 1995), p. 198.
Rasmus (Secher) Malthe (1829-1893) was a sculptor and helped Carl Jacobsen with art purchases; “W. Wilchens” must be an error for C. F. Wilckens; and the auction of Thorvaldsen’s effects in which the reliefs were sold was, as mentioned, held at Thorvaldsens Museum on 5.10.1849. A second auction was held on November 17, 1858, but here only a frame for the relief was on sale. It is thus most probable that either no. 63 or no. 64 ended up at the Glyptotek as The Baptism of Jesus, and no. 65 is indubitably the Museum’s exemplar of the relief The Baptism of Christ, A736.
It is ultimately clear that one of these three—The Baptism of Christ, A736, or the Glyptotek’s exemplar (The Baptism of Jesus, cat. no. MIN 447), or the third relief (no longer extant)—must be the one that Thorvaldsen produced in Montenero in late August 1805, and which appears on the baptismal font in a later, reworked version. The Baptism of Christ, A736, has no sign of pointing for marble carving; but this does not rule out the possibility that it was the relief produced in Montenero as a forerunner to the one on the Baptismal Font, A555,1.

Last updated 16.12.2014