The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on Jason and the Hope Commission

Following this visit, Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote the following sentence—at first glance somewhat odd—to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “It would be a shame if this truly excellent work of art were to be annihilated in plaster immediately once again.” Allegedly, this statement means that Humboldt hoped to see the statue through beyond the plaster stage, i.e., see it be executed in marble. This reading is based on, inter alia, Friederike Brun’s description in Römisches Leben, vol. II, Leipzig 1833, p. 31, of Antonio Canova’s portrait bust of Napoleon I, where this same point of view is expressed: Dieses Bild ist ein Wunder. Lebensschwellend, geistahmend, so weich, so warm erscheinend im kalten Gypse, der zwischen dem Modelle und dem Marmor steht, wir der Tod zwischen dem Leben und der Auserstehung. The same notion is repeated in Bjarne Jørnæs, op. cit. p. 120, who observes that a sculpture’s passage from idea to clay model was associated with life, its conversion from clay to plaster was associated with death, while its transformation into and execution in marble was associated with resurrection.

Last updated 21.12.2014