The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

 
No. 258 of 10178
Sender Date Recipient
Bertel Thorvaldsen [+]

Sender’s Location

Rom

Antagelig april 1802 [+]

Dating based on

Om dateringen se den generelle kommentar.

Jørgen West [+]

Recipient’s Location

København

Abstract

Thorvaldsen complains that he has not received any letter for a long time.

See Original [Translation]

Jeg har med lengsel vendet efter svar fra dig paa mine to siste breve, men forgeves. sistegan ieg til skrev Hr Justice Raad abildgaard lagte ieg deri et liden brev til Hr Fris hvori ieg ønskede at hvide om Du verkelig ennu var ved levende live. ikke heller paa den maade har [ieg] kundet erfare noget da ieg dog er sekker paa at det er ankommen eftersom ieg har faaet svar fra Abilgaa[r]d. Jeg ved meget vel at ieg fortienner bebrædelse for ieg ikke har skreven ofterre men ikke endgang at blive svart paa de faae gange ieg har skriven begriber ieg ikke

General Comment

This draft is written on a sheet on which there are also some Italian fragments, which for the sake of clarity will be dealt with separately. The other side contains a draft letter to Gotskalk Thorvaldsen.

Regarding the recipient

The draft must have been addressed to a good friend to whom Thorvaldsen used the familiar term ‘du’, see On Familiar Terms with Thorvaldsen. Thiele I, p. 190 thinks that the draft is addressed to the father, but this cannot be correct because the son expressly uses the formal term ‘De’ to his father in the two letters that exist from Thorvaldsen to Gotskalk Thorvaldsen – the draft letters of 22.4.1802 and of end of February 1804. Besides, the present draft is written on the other side of the above-mentioned draft of 22.4.1802 to Gotskalk Thorvaldsen, and the fact that the content of the two drafts is not the same supports the view that this draft must have been meant for someone else. The intended recipient of the draft is clearly a close friend in Copenhagen, and Jørgen West may be put forward as the most likely candidate.
This is made probable by the fact that both West and Thorvaldsen mention that the contact between them had been very scanty: The sculptor here writes that he has not had any reply to his last two letters. Correspondingly, West writes in his letter of 11.3.1803 that he has not heard from Thorvaldsen for four years. Thorvaldsen also mentions that he has asked Peder Friis, who was West’s brother-in-law, whether West was still alive, which Friis of course must be expected to know. Therefore, the indications point to Jørgen West as the intended recipient of the draft.
It is not known whether the draft led to a finished letter that was sent off.

On the dating

The discussion about the dating concerns both the above Danish draft, the Italian fragments on the same page, and the draft on the other side addressed to Gotskalk Thorvaldsen.

  1. The basic assumption must be that the drafts were written at more or less the same time as they appear on the two sides of one piece of paper and are written in the same ink. The draft to the father is dated 22.4 but without the year.
  2. One clue to determine the year of the draft to the father is the information about C.F.F. Stanley’s travelling scholarship. According to letter of 21.7.1800 from Abildgaard, it would not be decided whether Stanley was going until October 1800. The draft cannot have been written before this date, or rather before Thorvaldsen in Rome had been informed about it, i.e. a month later at the earliest, and probably somewhat later considering the postal services, see the related article about Postal Services. Thorvaldsen was definitely told about Stanley’s plan for travelling almost a year later in letter of 4.10.1801 from Abildgaard, but he may have been told by others before. The information about Stanley’s travelling scholarship therefore implies that the drafts may have been written around 22.4.1801 or 22.4.1802.
    3 In the draft to Gotskalk Thorvaldsen, Thorvaldsen mentions “during the short period of time I am here as the happy day is approaching when I shall embrace my good parents”. The draft, then, must have been written shortly before the expiration of his scholarship. This happened 6 years after 1.7.1796, i.e. 1.7.1802. In the spring of 1802, Thorvaldsen was planning to return the coming summer as appears i.e. in his letter of 20.3.1802 to the Academy of Fine Arts, in which he writes: “…as the to me favourably given scholarship now comes to an end, I am compelled to leave this city to set out on the home journey this summer.” This strongly indicates 1802, but it cannot be ruled out that Thorvaldsen could have written the same thing the year before in order to reassure his impatient and longing parents that they would soon see him in Copenhagen again.
  3. In the draft to Jørgen West , however, there is a remark which, strictly speaking, does not support an unambiguous dating to 1802. Thorvaldsen writes: “Last time I wrote to Counsellor Abildgaard I enclosed a short letter to Mr Fris in which I asked to know whether you actually were still alive”, and mentions that he has received an answer from Abildgaard to this letter.
    This remark may apply to both 22.4.1801 and 22.4.1802: If the draft is from 22.4.1802, the last letter from Thorvaldsen to Abildgaard is from 20.3.1802, but this cannot be the one that Thorvaldsen is alluding to as it would have been impossible for him to receive an answer to it about a month later in April 1802. The last preserved letter but one in the correspondence from Thorvaldsen to Abildgaard is dated 24.10.1800, but no direct answer to this is known. The next letter in the correspondence from Abildgaard is dated 4.10.1801, but that does not refer to Thorvaldsen’s letter of 24.10.1800. Thorvaldsen may then have received an earlier, now lost letter from Abildgaard in answer to his letter of 24.10.1800.
  4. A relatively weak indication which points to 22.4.1801 may be found in the fact that Thorvaldsen wrote a letter to the Academy of Fine Arts on this day. As he was in the habit of sending letters to different recipients in Copenhagen in one letter, the identical date of the draft of 22.4? to the father and the letter of 22.4.1801 to the Academy could indicate that Thorvaldsen sent two letters together this day. But the identical day and month may just as well be a coincidence and therefore cannot be used as evidence in the dating of the draft to Gotskalk Thorvaldsen and the fragments on the other side of the paper.

Conclusion: Even though it is theoretically possible that both drafts may be from April 1801 (or perhaps not written at the same time), it seems most likely that both are from April 1802, just before Thorvaldsen’s planned return to Denmark.

Archival Reference
m28, nr. 16v, 1
Document Type
Draft, autograph
Thiele
Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 190.
Subjects
On Familiar Terms with Thorvaldsen · Thorvaldsen's Unwillingness to Write · Friends of Thorvaldsen's Youth
Persons
Nicolai Abildgaard · Peder Friis
Last updated 11.02.2015 Print