The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

 
No. 418 of 10186
Sender Date Recipient
Bertel Thorvaldsen [+]

Sender’s Location

Rom

7.12.1804 [+]

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af Herman Schubarts svarbrev af 28.12.1804.

Herman Schubart [+]

Recipient’s Location

Montenero

Abstract

Thorvaldsen apologizes for his late answer to Schubart’s letter. He thanks him for the commission of Baptismal Font, cf. A555,1. He has almost finished the modelling of Bacchus, cf. A2, and Ganymede Offering the Cup, cf. A41, is currently being carved in marble. He wants to produce a relief of The Contention of Agamemnon and Achilles and a colossal statue of Diomedes. He understands that the portrait busts of the Schubarts, A718 and A719, cannot be sent to Rome at the moment. He asks for the measurements of his relief The Dance of the Muses on Helicon, cf. A705, with a view to having it carved in marble. His health is tolerable. He mentions that he has received payment for the commission to Irina Vorontsova.

See Original [Translation]

Derre kiæ[r]komde[?] brev af 26 Novenber ser jeg De ikke har bekkomet mit siste Skrivel

Af Deres kiære Brev d 26 Nov[e]mber seer jeg Deres Excellenza ikke har bekommet mit Svar som jeg har skrevet Postdag derefter det er mig ikke mulig at opfy[l]de min Skyldi[g]hed og Pligt at besvare Dem samme Dag da jeg bekommer Brevene saa sildig saa stor en Heldt som jeg endog er i at skrive.
Med stor Glæde imodtog [jeg] det arbejde som Deres Søster Grevinde S[c]him[me]lmann har den Godhed for mig at jeg maa forferdig[e] men ønskede at have den fornøielse at tale med Deres Excellenza da jeg behøver Deres Raad føren jeg kan giøre en udført te[g]ning og skikk[er] hermed dette lidet Udkast imedens
Jeg kan ikke beskrive hvo[r] undt det giør mig at Deres Excellenza maa opholde Dem ennu denne aar[s]tiid paa Montenero med Deres Sygelige Gemalinde og tillige saa endsomt[.] maa jeg veste Deres Excellenze maatte blev vinteren over saa vilde jeg med fornøielse komme til Dem og arbejde hos Dem
Jeg er nu snart ferdig med at modelere en Bachus af samme størrelse som min Ganimed der nu kryber ud af Marmoret og har Componert endel Bareier[?] som jeg agter at udføre besynde[r]lig et Barellie som forestiller Striden imellem agamem og alkiles der vilde dræbe ham agam men bliver tilbageholdt af Minerva[,] jeg har her leælighed til at vise alle Grekenlands fø[r]ste Eroi som var i denne forsamling[,] tillig tenker [jeg] paa at modellere en Diomedes som bortfører Paladium fra Troja samme størrelse som min Jason. Dersom min Helsen tillader det saa [tænker] jeg at arbejde meget[,] min Helbred er Gudskelov temlig god jeg har igen føelt nogen Livsmerte og Rider nu en Halv Time hver Dag paa Rideskolen som giør mig godt
at Bysterne ikke kan komme hertil for det første begriber jeg meget vel, og ønskede kun at Deres Excellenze samt Deres Gode Gemalinde var her saa kunde Busterne snart giøres igien. jeg beder saa omtrendt størrelsen om hvor mange Romerske Palmer mit Basireff langt og bredt da her er et smuk stykke marmor som jeg synes kunde være passende[.] med min Vexel har det ingen Hast[,] jeg var først da jeg kom her i Forlegenhed for Penge da Torlonia ikke vilde udbetale mine for Grevinde Vorentzowff men nu har han faaet Brev fra hende og jeg er betaldt og er en Riemand af 400 og 25 Piastre

General Comment

This sheet of paper has served several purposes. In order to understand the mutual relation and chronology of the individual parts, they will here be dealt with together.
The sheet contains five parts on both sides:

  • One bill for rent from Camillo Buti, dated 22.11.1804.
  • Two pencil sketches for Baptismal Font, cf. A555,1.
  • Thre short identical drafts, dated 30.11.1804
  • One longer draft, dated 30.11.1804
  • One longer draft, undated, above

In order to establish the sequence in which the paper has been used, Camillo Buti’s bill of 22.11 is the original document and the natural starting point.
It then seems reasonable to assume that the two sketches for Baptismal Font constitute the next step in the use of the sheet because the pencil drawings are under the ink, and because Thorvaldsen was not likely to have drawn on a piece of paper which he had already filled with writing as it would have been difficult to get a sense of the drawing. See more about the commission in The Baptismal Font for Brahetrolleborg Church.

Sketches for the Baptismal Font
Two pencil sketches for Baptismal Font, cf. A555,1, excerpt of the sheet with various drafts.

Draft of one or two letters?

Regarding the three drafts, Thiele I, p. 259-60 writes that they are drafts of two letters. The drafts dated 30.11.1804 were combined into one letter that was finished and sent off the same day – according to Thiele.
He then thinks that Thorvaldsen – after a week of reflection – discovered that he had not responded to the most important part of Schubart’s letter of 2.11.1804 and the friendly reminder of 26.11.1804, i.e. whether the sculptor accepted the commission for the baptismal font for Brahetrolleborg. Therefore Thorvaldsen sent another letter 7.12.1804, the date of which we know from Schubart’s reply of 28.12.1804, and of which the above is a draft.
This explanation, however, seems unlikely. It is also possible that Thorvaldsen did not send off a letter on 30.11.1804, based on his first drafts of that date but only sent one answer Schubart, i.e. that of 7.12.1804 based on a combination of the drafts of 30.11 and the above undated one.
This is also suggested by Schubart’s answer of 28.12.1804, in which he only mentions Thorvaldsen’s letter of 7.12.1804 and writes nothing about an earlier letter of 30.11.1804. And when you consider the contents of all the drafts and Schubart’s answer of 28.12.1804, there is nothing to indicate that Thiele’s assumption is correct.

The two pencil sketches for the baptismal font at Brahetrolleborg Church also suggest that the five drafts only resulted in one letter that was sent off. The baptismal font has been in Thorvaldsen’s mind as the first part of his planned answer to Schubart.

Therefore, it does not seem very likely that Thorvaldsen “…had forgotten to mention what his answer was really about, i.e. whether he would accept the commission for the baptismal font for Countess Schimmelmann.” (Thiele I, p. 260). It is more likely that Thorvaldsen’s answer was delayed, perhaps because of too much work or, rather, because of his well-known dislike of writing letters.

The chronology of the sheet.

Therefore, the sheet seems to have been filled in the following five stages as outlined in this picture of the two sides of the sheet of paper:

m28 nr. 19
The sequence of the sections of the sheet.

  • The green section shows a bill for rent from Camillo Buti which, because of the date 22.11, must be the first use of the paper.
  • In the masked section in the blue part of the text, Thorvaldsen made the two sketches for the baptismal font after having received Schubart’s letter of 26.11.1804 at the end of November 1804. He must have reached for the nearest piece of paper, got hold of the bill, turned the sheet around, and started drawing.
  • In the yellow section he must then have begun the first three short fragments of the draft of 30.11.1804.
  • In the blue section he must then have begun the slightly longer draft of 30.11.1804 on top of the pencil sketches. This longer draft begins on one page and ends with its last line on another page, below the three short drafts, so the longer draft must have been written after the three short ones and also been based on them.
  • In the red section he then – probably after a good week – returned to the matter, turned the sheet again and wrote one more draft – the above. On the basis of his drafts he finally succeeded in writing and sending off his unknown answer of 7.12.1804.

Although the matter cannot be determined with certainty, this explanation of the chronology of the bill, the pencil drawings, and the drafts seems the most likely.

Archival Reference
m28, nr. 19b
Document Type
Draft, autograph
Thiele
Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 260-261.
Subjects
Baptismal Font to Brahetrolleborg Church · Montenero · Loans and Bills of Exchange · Portrait Busts, Contemporary Persons · Reliefs, Classical Mythology · Reliefs, Christian Mythology · Statues, Classical Mythology · Statues, Christian Mythology · Drawings, Sketches for Non-Realised Works · Drawings, Sketches for Realised Works · Thorvaldsen's Unwillingness to Write · Thorvaldsen's Illness 1803-04 · Thorvaldsen's Works, Commissioning · Thorvaldsen's Financial Circumstances · Vorontsova's Commission
Persons
Charlotte Schimmelmann · Jacqueline Schubart · Giovanni Raimondo Torlonia · Irina Vorontsova
Works
Last updated 15.07.2015 Print