The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on 17.1.1804

Thorvaldsen’s mother, Karen Thorvaldsen died 7.1.1804 and was buried in Nikolaj Churchyard in Copenhagen, see her biography for more about this.
Thorvaldsen met Abildgaard’s news about her death with silence in his answer dated 25.2.1804.
At first he tried to describe the strong impression his mother’s death made on him in a draft letter to Abildgaard some months later, dated
6.8.1804: “I formerly received the letter which Your Honour has honoured me with and whose contents were so much more painful to me as I at once and without being prepared in any way had to learn about the death of my beloved mother. You informed me about this sad piece of news in few words, and God knows how painful it was to me. I am, however, completely convinced that Your Honour did not mean to cast me down to such a degree by the few lines you wrote to me.”
However, in the final version dated 6.8.1804 to Abildgaard, the matter was not mentioned, so Thorvaldsen obviously found it difficult to tell Abildgaard about his grief.
Thiele I, p. 209, thinks that Abildgaard’s news about the mother’s death was conveyed in ”a very rough and indifferent manner”, which aroused a “feeling of bitterness” in Thorvaldsen, but the question is what Abildgaard could have written to soften the harshness of the news. Thiele continues on p. 210: “At the time Thorvaldsen hid his ill-will towards Abildgaard because of this letter [dated 17.1.1804] as well as he could by not mentioning his mother’s death at all in the letter [dated 25.2.1804] that he then wrote to him…” Whether one is to understand Thorvaldsen’s silence as ill-will towards Abildgaard or not, it is still a fact that the sculptor suppressed his reaction both in his first letter dated 25.2.1804 and also in the second one less than six months later.

Last updated 22.01.2018