The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

 
No. 601 of 10181
Sender Date Recipient
Bertel Thorvaldsen [+]

Sender’s Location

Rom

Information on sender

Rødt laksegl: Thorvaldsens eget segl, buste på termefod, påskrift f.o.: [T]HORVALDSEN
Poststempler: ROMA og HAMBOURG B.G.D. 5 Mars 1807

16.2.1807 [+]

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.

C.F. Hansen [+]

Recipient’s Location

Altona

Information on recipient

Udskrift: A Monsieur Monsieur Hansen architecte de la Cour et proffesseur / de l’academie des Beaux-arts a / Copenhague par Hambourg / à Altona / Franca Trento

Abstract

Thorvaldsen suggests subjects from Greek mythology for the reliefs for the Christiansborg Palace façade. He regrets that the statues of Solon and Lycurgus for the Copenhagen city hall and courthouse will not be made in marble. For the medallions and the pediment, he suggests subjects related to legislation.
 He cannot begin the work until he receives an advance although he has ordered marble for the Christiansborg medallions.

See Original [Translation]

Rom d 16de Febrarj 1807

Jeg har modtaget Hr Professorens meget ærede Skrivelse af 31de Decembr angaaende de Arbejder til det Kongelige Slot og Raadhuus som De med den Høye Commission behager at værdige mig –
Det er mig saare smigrende at Valget af Sysetterne overlades til mig selv – for at opfylde den Høye Commissions Forlangende med Allegoriske Sysetter i Medaillionerne til Slottes mener jeg at gjøre Brug af den Græske Mytologie, saa som samme er den mest cultiverde og følgelig den værdigste for Konsten
Jeg beklager blot at den smukke Idee med de tvende ærværdige Lovgivere saa caracteristiske Figurer og smukke Custymer, dertil saa heldigen anbragte ikke skal udføres i Marmor. I Medaillionerne over disse tænkker jeg at være passende at caracterisere en hvers Love. Og i Frontespitsen et Sysjet som giver Idee om den udøvende Lovgivning – Disse Ting til Raadhuuset skal jeg efter Forlangende gjøre Modellerne til, og fremdeles med Fornøyelse begynde paa disse Arbejder saa snar den høye Commission sætter mig i Stand der til ved snarest mulig at forstrække mig med Forskud – Thi der bøer strax forlanges Marmor da det er ofte meget vanskelig at bekomme; Til et hver basreljef Udførelse behøves en Mand daglig; Og skal jeg opfylde den høye Commissions Forlangende saa ufortøvet at begynde disse Ting nødsages jeg til at levne Tiid fra mine bestilte Arbejder hvis fulde Betaling jeg ikke hæver før Samme ere fuldendte – De seer følgelig heraf: at det ikke er mig mulig paa andre Vilkaar at begynde paa de forlangte Arbejder: end at den høye Commission bestemmer her hos en Banquer omtrendt et tusende Piaster hvoraf jeg kan hæve lit efter lit for ikke ved tabet af Breve eller V[e]xel at blive opholdet i Arbejdet.
Jeg anbefaler mig her ved Her Professorens Venskab og den høye Commissions Bevaagenhed; da jeg er fuldkommen overbevist om at De indseer at jeg med den beste Villige til at giøre alt muligt for min Konge og mit Fædreneland ikke er i Stand til paa anden Maade at see dette mit kiæreste Ønske opfyldt
Til behagelig Efterretning lader jeg her med Hr Professoren viide at jeg allerede til de forlangte Ba[srelje]fer til Slottet haver bestilt Marmor paa det a[t ikke] Mangel af samme skulde forhindre mig at opfylde Der[es] Ønsker – Deres ærbødige beredvillige

Tiener

B. Thorvaldsen

General Comment

This is Thorvaldsen’s answer to the first commission of works from the Danish state, which C.F. Hansen had transmitted in his letter of 31.12.1806.
There exists a draft of this letter. There are only minor differences between the draft and the letter – only where Thorvaldsen asks for an advance of 1000 piastres, does he make greater demands and express himself a little more directly in the draft. Here he asks for “one thousand [piastres] annually, for current expenses, and that a banker be ordered to pay for marble when I demand it”. As can be seen above, he does not demand 1000 piastres every year and and chooses a softer wording as regards payment.


However, the letter is still generally characterized by Thorvaldsen’s artistic self-confidence. He does not offer even a word of thanks for the otherwise prestigious tasks that C.F. Hansen has given him, and by referring to his other commissions, he treats the Danish state like any other client. However, he is willing to move Denmark to the front of the queue of commissions if – and only if – he receives a considerable advance.
Thiele II, p. 73 thinks that the explanation of Thorvaldsen’s reaction was that the commissions were not as he “had had reason to expect”, see more about this in the Commission for Christiansborg Palace.

The letter was not part of Thiele’s original discovery of letters (see the History of the Archives). It was not acquired for Thorvaldsens Museum until 1876, cf. jour.no 6a 797/1876 and 807/1876.
Bottom left, the letter has the journal number Litr A no 461 of the Building Commission for Christiansborg Palace.

Archival Reference
m28, nr. 5
Document Type
Document, autograph
Thiele
Thiele II, p. 76-77.
Subjects
Commission for Christiansborg · Commission for the Copenhagen Town Hall and Courthouse · Artistic Freedom · Reliefs, Allegories · Reliefs, Classical Mythology · Statues, Classical Mythology · Thorvaldsen on His Own Art · Thorvaldsen's Patriotism · Thorvaldsen's Cooperation with Architects · Thorvaldsen's Works, Payment · Thorvaldsen's Works, Conceptualization
Persons
Slotsbygningskommissionen
Works
Last updated 04.03.2016 Print