The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

 
No. 306 of 10178
Sender Date Recipient
Bertel Thorvaldsen [+]

Sender’s Location

Rom

7.11.1803 [+]

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.

Charlotte Schimmelmann [+]

Recipient’s Location

København

Information on recipient

Ingen udskrift.

Abstract

Petition from Thorvaldsen, drawn up in collaboration with Herman Schubart and addressed to Schubart’s sister. She is requested to exert her influence so that Thorvaldsen will receive commissions from the Danish government and be able to stay another two years in Rome.

See Original [Translation]

Rome le 7 Novembre 1803

Madame la Comtesse

Pardon si un inconnu ose s’adresser à Vous; mais on dit que Vous êtes si bonne, si sensible aux malheurs d’autrui, et si j’en juge d’après l’excellent Coeur de Votre respectable Frere, je dois Vous supposer la Dame la plus accomplie qui puisse exister. On m’a toujours dit Madame la Comtesse que Vous ne cessiés de faire le bien, que Vous Vous interessiés aux Arts, aux Artistes, et a Ceux qui ont des talents. Les miens ne sont enverité pas forts grands, mais je sens que si le destin se lasse de me persecuter, je ne serai pas indigne d’etre Votre Compatriote Madame la Comtesse. Je sais que Monsieur Votre frere Vous a parlé de moi, de mes ouvrages, et de mes malheurs. Il Vous aura dit ce que son Coeur sensible lui aura inspiré, et je suis bien persuadé qu’il Vous a trop dit, mais je ne Vous cache pas que si par Vos bontés je pouvois obtenir de quoi vivre encore deux ans, je deviendrai un artiste habile. Vous voyés Madame la Comtesse que j’ose Vous parler avec franchise même au depends de la modestie, et cela Vous prouve combien ma confiance en Vous est grande. Si le Roi m’accorde quelque secours, je m’engagerai à travailler pour Sa Majesté. On n’a qu’a me donner le sujet que j’excécuterai avec enthousiasme puisqu’il s’agira de me rendre digne de Votre bienveillance. Les fraix du marbre devroient etre pour le Compte de la Cour parceque je n’ai aucun moyen pour y supléer moi meme; mais l’ouvrage seroit excecuté a raison de ce qu’on me donneroit anuellement, et pour m’acquitter envers un Gouvernement paternel qui ne me doit rien, mais auquel je dois tout le bonheur qu’il repand sur ma chere patrie.
Ma hardiesse est grande Madame la Comtesse de m’adresser à Vous; mais Votre bonté est plus grande encore, et cela me rassure. D’ailleurs c’est Monsieur Votre Frere qui m’a donné du Courage, et c’est lui qui me permet de Vous écrire tandis que je n’ose pas meme m’adresser à Son Excellence le Comte Reventlow qui fut de tout tems mon protecteur, et moins encore a Son Excellence Monsieur le Comte Votre Epoux, quoique je sache qu’il a la plus belle ame, et le caractère le plus noble.
J’ai l’honneur de me signer avec le plus profond respect et la plus grande admiration

Madame la Comtesse
Votre très humble et très obeissant serviteur

General Comment

This petition to Herman Schubart’s sister was written by Schubart himself on his characteristic note paper, of which only one column of the sheet is filled in. It is not known whether the wording is Schubart’s alone, but it is likely that Thorvaldsen has left it entirely to his willing benefactor to compose the petition, both because it was addressed to his sister, and because it was to be written in French – her preferred language of correspondence – which Thorvaldsen probably did not master sufficiently well to be able to write a fluent and correct letter, cf. the related article Thorvaldsen’s Spoken and Written Language. However, it is also possible that Thorvaldsen did not like to ask for help in this direct manner, and that he therefore left it to Schubart to compose the letter.
Thiele is not in any doubt that Schubart is the author of what he calls “…this insipid, obsequious letter, in every way unworthy of Thorvaldsen…”, cf. Thiele I, p. 203 and 205. Thiele’s criticism is probably not aimed at this letter alone. His negative attitude to Schubart’s person may have been caused by the fact that the relationship between Thorvaldsen and Schubart became less cordial at the end of the 1810s, and that Schubart’s posthumous reputation became slightly tarnished, see more about this in his biography. Thiele’s comment is written with the wisdom of hindsight: He knew how the relationship between the patron and the sculptor developed later and therefore did not evaluate this letter on the basis of Thorvaldsen’s circumstances in 1803.
Irrespective of Thiele’s disapproval, the letter had the desired effect. The countess wrote back to her brother 10.12.1803: “…I [was] sincerely moved when I read his letter, and my husband was not indifferent either ..”, see letter dated 21.1.1804.

The letter draft was part of Schubart’s efforts in 1803-04 to get support in Denmark for Thorvaldsen to continue his career in Rome, see the related article Thorvaldsen’s Continuance in Rome 1803-04.
It is known for certain that the present draft resulted in a letter since Schimmelmann in December 1803 wrote to her brother that she had started to work on Throvaldsen’s behalf in Danmark. This is evident from the above-mentioned letter from Schubart dated 21.1.1804, in which he informs Thorvaldsen about the positive development in the matter.
The draft was probably written in Rome as one of Schubart’s last initiatives before he went to Naples, where he announced his arrival in a letter to Thorvaldsen dated 12.11.1803.

Archival Reference
m28, nr. 18
Document Type Amanuensis
Draft by amanuensis Herman Schubart
Thiele
Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 203-205.
Subjects
Patronage · Thorvaldsen's Continuance in Rome
Persons
Christian 7. · Christian Ditlev Reventlow · Ernst Schimmelmann · Herman Schubart
Last updated 21.09.2018 Print