The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

 
No. 115 of 10177
Sender Date Recipient
Bertel Thorvaldsen [+]

Sender’s Location

Rom

Ultimo 1797 [+]

Dating based on

Om dateringen, se den generelle kommentar.

Nicolai Abildgaard [+]

Recipient’s Location

København

Information on recipient

Ingen udskrift.

Abstract

Thorvaldsen’s draft of his first report to Abildgaard on his activities in Rome. He has visited the sights of the city and made the acquaintance of artists and art-lovers in Rome. His marble-carving skills have improved with the busts of Tyge Rothe, A225, and A.P. Bernstorff (Brahetrolleborg). Due to the war, marble is scarce, and besides Thorvaldsen has been ill for some weeks.
Napoleon’s troops are stripping the large museums of art to be sent to Paris. Thorvaldsen has not seen any important new works of art during his stay in Rome apart from some series of engravings.

See Original [Translation]

Efter lang Tavshed giver ieg mig den Ære at tilskrive Jost[it]sraaden. Det havde vel verret min skyldighed tiligerre at tilkiendegive Dem min vedblivende Hengivenhed og Taknemmellighed for den megen Godhed som De bestandigen har beviist mig. men overbevist om at De ikke tviller paa mit Sindelag har ieg ikke vildet Incommodere Dem med en skrivelse førend at ieg tillige kunde melde Dem noget som fra konstens side kunde intreserre Dem og give Dem efterretning om min fremgang i den Del af konsten til hvilken ieg har bestemt mig. Den lange Søe Reyse gav mig ikke megen Materrie til at skrive om. Ved mit korte ophold i Neapel saa ieg de ting som fr[em]mede plæer at see, og ved min ankomst i Rom [over]veldede mig de mange merværdeheder som denne Bye frembyider saaledes at ieg ikke viste hvo[r ieg] skulde begynde. ieg kunde her ikke haabe at giøre nog[en Be]merning der fortiente at meddels førend at ieg h[av]de giodt mig bekent med det Hele og dets fonemmeste Dele; ikke Heller kunde ieg ligge Hand paa arbeædet entil ieg havde inrettet mig og funden et beqvem Verksted. ieg har nu seet og til dels allerrede studeret de fornemmeste Ting her, ieg har giot [gjort] mig bekent med askellige kunstnere og andre personer som intresere sig for kunsten af hvis omgan ieg kan Reæne [regne] paa at profeterre ved mit ophold her; og arbeider nu med al muelig flid
Med Rothe[s] Byste er ieg nu saa got som ferdig
mangel paa marmer blokke medens Søe krigen forhinderde Fartøerne fra Carrara at inløbe i Tibrenen hold mig nogen tiid tilbage, og neppe havde ieg i Julig moned erholdet et stykke saa [blev] ieg overfalden af en feber som Røvede mig nogle uger
i miller Tiid gor [gjorde] ieg nu Rothe[s] Byste saa got som færdedg og alene Vanskeligheden med Transporten hindrer mig at sende det bort førrend enden af aaret. skulde Hans Ven[ner] ønske at bekomme det udafhindret saa beder ieg at det maate meldes mig om ieg skulde skekke det over land, dersom at de derremod lader det bero til foraarret saa hober ieg at kunde tillige sende Berstorff[s] Byste som ieg har ud af puntterne. Ved det giorde forsøeg har ieg funden at Vanske[li]g[h]ed[n] i at arbeide i marmor ikke er saa stor som ieg forrestilte mig og saa snart de omtalte Byster er ferdige agter ieg at giøre en figur i marmor men er enu ikke Ret enig med mig selv angaaende Sosettet Jostisraaden ved af de offenlige Tidender at en Del af kunstsagerne aller Rede forrige sommer blev enpaked for at sendes til Frazoserne og at andre i vinter havde samme skiebne. Da ieg kom til Rom var de som de havde valgt ud af det Capitolinske museum indpakkede og det Vatekaniske museum ma[ng]lede allerede den berymte Antinous, Herkules med sin Søn paa armen, de to greske felisofer med ander mindre betydende stykker.
Apollo havde man indmuret benene paa for at sette [h]am i Kasser, Laokoon, Torsen og muserne var endnu ikke Rørte. Det store tab som kunsterne have lit agter man nogesledes at Reparere med gibs avstøninger som man agter at sætte i stæden hvor originalene have staaet. Besynderlig kunverkke er ikke fremkommet[,] af de betydeligst blant de nye koberverker finder ieg at verre bron[ze] dørrene af Bartolig afteng og stukkne[,] af Th. pierlay samling af Instrumenter og Redskaber tegnede fra antike munumenter paa 100 tavler[,] samme Autor har begynt at udgive [en] svite af antikke Balieffer hvoraf maanenlig leveres 3 stykk[er] og hvoraf hidindtid er kommet 10 stk
ieg haaber med Tiden at finde leælighed til at melde om andre kunzvaker saa som ieg ikke skal forsømme at medele alt hvad ieg troer at kunde fortiene Josti Raaden[s] opmeksomhed. ieg forlader mig paa at De vil vedbeholde den samme godhed for mig som ieg forhen har haft prøver paa og at mine Breve i Hvor magre de endog maatte udfalde ikke vil verre Dem uvelkommen
som ieg idetforbigangne har havt saa mange prøver paa

særdeles mekverdige konst vekker er ikke bleven fremstillede siden den tiid ieg er i Rom! i blant de Nye koberstykker som mig er kommen for Øinene suynis mig de betydeligste at være Bro[n]ze Dørene af Baster i Florenz

Bertel

General Comment

This draft is the only known version of the letter.
Regarding the dating:
This draft letter must have been written between the end of 1797 and the beginning of 1798.
Firstly, some imprecise indications of time are to be found in the letter:
The context reveals that the draft is Thorvaldsen’s first letter to Abildgaard after his arrival in Rome 8.3.1797. Then he writes about the transportation of the bust of Tyge Rothe: “… the difficulty with the transport prevents me from sending it away before the end of the year_”, whereby he must mean the end of 1797. But he would really rather “wait till spring” because then the bust of _A.P. Bernstorff would also have been completed and could be sent at the same time, i.e. the spring of 1798. The bust of Tyge Rothe, however, was not sent until the summer of 1798, while the bust of _Bernstorff _had to wait another couple of years, see the article Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802.
Besides, Thorvaldsen mentions that the French already “last summer” had started to remove the most important artworks from the Roman museums. This had been done after the Peace of Tolentino 19.2.1797.
Based on this, the draft may be provisionally dated late 1797.
However, if one compares with Thorvaldsen’s report to the Academy of Fine Arts, which he sent in two copies of 5.1.1798 and 20.1.1798, the dating of the draft could be advanced to January 1798: The content of this draft to Abildgaard is an expanded version of the two letters to the Academy. In particular, his remarks about the sights of Rome, which prevented him from starting work immediately, are repeated with several points of similarity; in the present draft he writes: “…on my arrival in Rome the many objects of interest which this city offers overwhelmed me so that I did not know where to begin. Here I could not hope to notice anything that you deserved to be informed about until I had become acquainted with all of it and its most outstanding parts. Neither could I get down to work until I had arranged matters and found a convenient workshop. I have now seen and already studied the noblest things here …”.
In the letters of 5.1.1798 & 20.1.1798, Thorvaldsen writes: “The many objects of interest have had the effect that I could not get down to work until I had become acquainted with the most important things in Rome and the surrounding towns.”
The identical expressions “objects of interest”; “before I had become acquainted with” and “get down to work” indicate that the draft and the letters to the Academy were written at the same time.
In that case, Thorvaldsen could have sent the fair copy of the draft to Abildgaard at the same time as his letters to the Academy. At any rate, this practice of sending his letters to the Academy and to Abildgaard together was used by Thorvaldsen later, see e.g. his two letters of 12.10.1799 or of 4.4.1800.
The two versions of the report to the Academy of Fine Arts from 5.1.1798 and 20.1.1798 are addressed differently. The letter of 5.1.1798 is addressed in French, the common international language of postal services: “À L’Accademie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture & Architecture à Copenhague”. The letter of 20.1.1798, on the other hand, is addressed in Danish: “Til Det Kongelige Maler Billedhugg og Bygnngs Academie i Kiøbenhavn”. As the Danish text cannot have been immediately understandable to the Roman postal services, one might assume that Thorvaldsen sent his report of 20.1.1798 to the Academy enclosed in another letter with an international/French address on the envelope. It is natural to suggest that this other letter could have been a fair copy of the present draft to Abildgaard. If this is the case, Thorvaldsen made a fair copy of his draft around 20.1.1798, and the dating may then be advanced to January 1798.
In summary, we may say that Thorvaldsen must have started the draft at the end of 1797, and if a fair copy was made and sent (which Thiele I, p.123 doubts), it must have been done in January 1798.

Archival Reference
m28, nr. 15
Document Type
Draft, autograph
Thiele
Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 124-126, bortset fra de sidste to afsnit.
Subjects
Transportation of Thorvaldsen's Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802 · Artistic Environment in Rome · Marble Carving · Museums and Art Collections in Rome · Portrait Busts, Contemporary Persons · French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars · Thorvaldsen's Dilligence · Thorvaldsen's Spoken and Written Language · Thorvaldsen's Workshops
Persons
Tommaso Piroli
Works
Last updated 17.07.2017 Print