Antagelig marts 1797


Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location


Information on sender

Ingen udskrift.


Jørgen West

Recipient’s Location


Dating based on

Om dateringen, se den generelle kommentar.


A sheet with several fragments in Danish, German and Italian. First two drafts of a letter in Italian addressed to an unknown recipient; then two drafts in Danish of the beginning of a letter, probably to Jørgen West; finally, a short note from Peter Kauffmann and some intimate sentences in Italian.


[Tekstfelt 1:I]

[papiret afrevet] [Con m]olto piacere ho ioII recevuto vostro billietto
che [xxx] pregatarviIII[?] di sapere nuove

Con molto piacere ho recevutto vostra lettera
Sono tanto obligato di vostra atenzione perone
non mancherebbe che io vieròV a trovarvi, ma
a presente adesso e enposibelli forse sara melegio [meglio?]
vi prego di comodare l’afare con vostra Sorella
molto ebbe[?] a sercateVI di e devertirvi quando potete [potede?]

[TekststykkeVIII på højkant i forhold til de to ovennævnte italiensksprogede:]
Nu er ieg endeligen kommen
til Rom og der kan begynde
at Arbeæde som jeg lenges
meget efter for at komme til

[Tekstfelt 2:IX]

Da ieg nu er kommen paa mit [Bestemmelsessted?X] [papiret afrevet]
og ikke har nødig at Reyse mere [?] [papiret afrevet]
der ham [derhen?] om Du vilde skrive mig [?] [papiret afrevet]
ieg lenges so forskrækellig efter Bre[v] [for at få?] [papiret afrevet]
at hvide vorledes det gor dersom Du vel [spørge?] [papiret afrevet]
mine forældre fra mig om Di har faaet det [Brev?] [papiret afrevet]
som var inden i AcademiesXI. og om Dee vil
skrive mig til eller ikke De gor mig Rele [rigtig?] nok
ondt Da ieg ikke ved vorledes det gaa til
i Kiøbenhavn

[Tekstfelt 3:XII]

Caricima Carissima Amica
KiöbenhanvXIII d d 20 Mars

[TekststykkeXIV på hovedet i forhold til ovennævnte:]
Herr Thorwaldsen ich bitte sie von der gütte zu
seyn und mir disen abend wen es möglich wäre
etwan ein Scudo der Sigr OrcolaXV zu geben[.]
ich werde etwas spetter in abhollen[,] sie werden
sehr verbinden [verbunden?] ihren wahren

[Tekstfelt 4:XVI]

Ko K Kiöbenhavn K
Kio K

[et ulæseligt ord]

[TekststykkeXVII på hovedet i forhold til ovennævnte:]
Tu fai la furbanella
Ecco – mi a te d’intro no

Oversættelse af dokument

[Text 1]

[paper torn off:][Con m]olto piacere ho io recevuto vostro billietto
che [xxx] pregatarvi[?] di sapere nuove

Con molto piacere ho recevutto vostra lettera
Sono tanto obligato di vostra atenzione perone
non mancherebbe che io vierò a trovarvi, ma
a presente adesso e enposibelli forse sara melegio [meglio?]
vi prego di comodare l’afare con vostra Sorella
molto ebbe[?] a sercate di e devertirvi quando potete [potede?]

[Text upright compared to the two Italian texts above:]
Now I have finally come
to Rome and here I can begin
to work which I long
very much to get down to

[Text 2:]

As I have now reached my [destination] [paper torn off]
and do not need to travel more [?] [paper torn off]
which him [there?] if you would please write to me [?] [paper torn off]
I do so long [to get ?] a letter [paper torn off]
to know how it goes if you will [ask?] [paper torn off]
my parents from me if they have received the [letter?] [paper torn off]
which was enclosed in that to the Academy and if you will
write to me or if not you make me really [rigtig?]
sad as I do not know what happens
in Copenhagen

[Text 3:]

Caricima Carissima Amica
Copenhagen March 20th

[Text upside down compared to the above text:]
Herr Thorwaldsen ich bitte sie von der gütte zu
seyn und mir disen abend wen es möglich wäre
etwan ein Scudo der Sigr Orcola zu geben[.]
ich werde etwas spetter in abhollen[,] sie werden
sehr verbinden [verbunden?] ihren wahren

[Text 4:]

Co C Copenhagen C
Co C

[An illegible word]

[Text upside down compared to the above:]
Tu fai la furbanella
Ecco – mi a te d’intro no

[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

These 6 fragments of text are all found on the same side of a piece of paper, on the opposite side of which there are some sketches related to Thorvaldsen’s stay on Malta. The sheet is therefore placed in the collection of drawings in Thorvaldsens Museum, C818v.
The sheet has been folded twice – once in either direction – so that the side with the fragments of text is divided into four equally large sections here numbered 1-4, with the top two sections as 1 and 2.
Two corners of the paper have been torn off, which has caused a loss of text in sections 1 and 2, especially the latter containing the draft letter to Jørgen West.

Regarding the date:
The sketches on the sheet recto, C818r, and the texts verso, C818v, can be dated 1796-97 on the basis of the following clues:
  1. The two Danish draft letters by Thorvaldsen point to March 1797 just after his arrival in Rome 8.3.1797: ”Now I have finally come to Rome…” and “As I have now reached my [paper torn off; Thiele I, p.106 suggests “destination”] and do not need to travel more [paper torn off]”.
  2. The fragment: “Copenhagen March 20” probably indicates the date 20.3. 1797. That Thorvaldsen has written Copenhagen (several times) should be regarded as samples of his writing, probably because he was to write the name of the city in the address on a letter he was going to send to Copenhagen. “March 20” is therefore likely to be an exact date.
  3. The two Danish draft letters can be said with considerable certainty to be addressed to Jørgen West for several reasons: They have clearly been written to a good friend, with whom Thorvaldsen was “on familiar terms”:/ artikler/dus-med-thorvaldsen, and who knew his parents well, which points to West. Besides, in a letter now lost, dated not later than 1797 to his father, Thorvaldsen asked if West had received the letter Thorvaldsen had sent to him, see letter dated 8.5.1797 from Gotskalk Thorvaldsen to his son. In his letter dated “14.8.1797”:/dokumenter/m11797,nr.5, West thanks Thorvaldsen for his letter announcing his arrival in Rome. West apologizes for having taken such a long time to answer it. Therefore, it can be established that, shortly after his arrival in Rome, Thorvaldsen sent a letter to West which he might reasonably have expected to arrive in Copenhagen not later than early May 1797. The letter sent to West could therefore have been written on 20.3.1797 as Thorvaldsen wrote on this sheet. This argument then suggests a fairly well-founded date for the two Danish letter fragments from Thorvaldsen. #The two sketches recto. C818r, can both be connected to Thorvaldsen’s stay on Malta at the turn of 1796-97: The Centaur Chiron Teaching Achilles Medicin recalls a drawing with a similar motif on an album leaf in Thorvaldsens Museum C499, which Thorvaldsen drew for the ship’s doctor G.C. Hansen on the frigate Thetis. The sketch of the buildings represents Fort St. Angelo in Valletta Harbour. This must mean that Thorvaldsen has brought the sheet with him on his journey from Denmark to Rome, and that the letter drafts verso must be dated from his earliest time in Italy. #There is a watermark in the middle of the paper: Two mirrored Cs with the figure seven in each for Christian 7. The watermark is the principal mark for “N H B Orholm Fabrique”, i.e. Ørholm papermill on Mølleåen on Zealand, founded in 1793. Even if the paper is Danish, it may of course have been exported, but the most likely explanation is that Thorvaldsen had brought the paper with him on his journey in 1796-97. This strengthens the assumption that the draft letters verso stem from his earliest time in Italy.
  4. The German note to Thorvaldsen comes from the sculptor Peter Kauffmann. The handwriting has so many similarities with Kauffmann’s later letter dated 15.7.1822 to Thorvaldsen that no doubt as to the author of the message is possible. Kauffmann also came to Rome in 1797 and belonged to the same group of German-Scandinavian artists as Thorvaldsen, so they must have known each other from Thorvaldsen’s earliest time in Rome. The Swedish doctor J.J. Ekman sends greetings to “Kaufmann” in a letter to Thorvaldsen dated 10.3.1801.
    At first glance, Kauffmann’s note looks like the original, which Thorvaldsen later used to make drafts of drawings and letters. However, since Thorvaldsen is likely to have brought the sheet from Denmark and certainly drew on it on Malta, Kauffmann’s note must have been written after Thorvaldsen used the sheet.
    Kauffmann’s note has neither a date nor an address. It is therefore likely that the note was written when Kauffmann knew Thorvaldsen so well that he had access to the place where he kept his papers. The German, then, wrote his note on a random piece of paper found in Thorvaldsen’s lodgings. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the note does not look like a letter; it seems to have been written in haste and without punctuation.
    Furthermore, Kauffmann mentions one “Sigr Orcola”, which could be read as Signora Orsola, who could be Thorvaldsen’s landlady Ursula or Orsola Polverini Narlinghi at 141 Via Sistina, but Thorvaldsen did not live there until 1800. However, he could have known the landlady before he moved into her house.

These six clues, then, indicate that the sketches recto and the text fragments verso must be dated 1796-97.
Thorvaldsen must have had the paper with him on his journey to Italy and used it to make drawings on Malta. Since the text fragments are all on the verso of the sheet in relation to the drawings, it is likely that Thorvaldsen kept his Maltese sketches and used the other side for drafts of various letters after his arrival in Rome.
The Italian draft letters have even been written before the two Danish fragments, i.e. probably before 20.3.1797 – only Kauffmann’s note and the other small fragments cannot be dated with certainty – although Kauffmann’s note was probably written before Thorvaldsen wrote his writing samples with the date 20.3. just below in section 3. If one imagines Kaufmann looking among Thorvaldsen’s papers for a sheet with sufficient space for his message, he would hardly have chosen the present sheet if Thorvaldsen had already filled part of the space in section 3 with his scribblings. Although this concerning Kauffmann’s note is speculative, it seems more likely, considering its placement, that Kauffmann used this part of the paper before Thorvaldsen than the other way round. In that case, Kaufmann’s note might have been written before Thorvaldsen wrote “March 20”.
All things considered, the text fragments on the paper need not have been written at the same time – Thorvaldsen’s use of old pieces of paper is well-known, see e.g. Thiele I, p.XI-XII – but on the basis of
the above, it seems reasonable to assume that they may date from approximately the same period, i.e. around March 1797.

Document Type

Egenhændigt udkast

Archival Reference

C818v (tidligere: m28, nr. 109)


Det ene brevudkast til West gengives hos Thiele I, p. 106; det italienske udkast omtales indirekte ibid., p. 112-113.




C818v Brevkoncepter, 1797, C818v
C818r Chiron underviser Achilleus i lægekunsten. Fort Sankt Angelo, Valletta, 1796-1797, C818r


  1. It is not known who the draft letter below is addressed to, but the handwriting is Thorvaldsen’s. The first two lines must be a first draft of the start of the following, slightly longer draft since both have been written in the same ink and apparently at the same time, and since the wording is identical with a few changes.
    The letter fragment is likely to date from March 1797 or before. The two Danish draft letters to Jørgen West in section 1 (bottom) and 2 can be dated with fairly great certainty to this period, and these two drafts must be later than the Italian for the simple reason that one of the Danish texts starting ”Now I have finally come…” undoubtedly has been written over part of the Italian (see the discussion about the date in the general comment).
    As can be seen, Thorvaldsen’s Italian is far from perfect: his spelling is full of mistakes; he confuses e.g. i and e and n and m; he often omits double consonants; there are no indications of stress; and his conjugation of verbs is uncertain. Thorvaldsen’s dyslexia did not improve matters. In spite of these sources of error, a translation might be as follows:

    With great pleasure I have received your note,
    in which you ask for news

    With great pleasure I have received your letter
    I am grateful for your attention
    of course, I should come and see you, but
    at present it is impossible[,] maybe it would be better[.]
    I ask you to settle the matter with your sister[.]
    try to enjoy yourself as much as possible [or: when you can]

    The last line is difficult to understand, and the translation is tentative. Thorvaldsen seems to have crossed out the first two words of the line (the deletion is not completely clear). It probably reads: “molto ebbe”, but it could also be “molto cose”. Either way, these two words were probably meant be replaced by the words “a sercate di”, which Thorvaldsen has added below the deleted words. These three words are so close to the line above that they have to be understood as part of it and not as a continuation of the last words in the line. This interpretation, however, depends on the word “sercate” being seen as a form of the verb cercàre, i.e. to strive or try, whereby “a sercate di” could be understood as suggested in the translation.
    The many errors of form in the draft might indicate that Thorvaldsen is the author of the draft, and that, at the time of the writing, he had acquired sufficient knowledge of Italian to proceed in spite of the errors. However, about two months before in January 1797, his knowledge of Italian was – as far as we know – very modest, see the letter dated 27.1.1797 from Vincenzo Manno to Francesco Manno and also the related article about “Thorvaldsen’s Spoken and Written Language “:/artikler/thorvaldsens-tale-og-skriftsprog. Therefore, it seems most likely that Thorvaldsen had some help with the draft letter, but considering the errors, it could not have been from an expert writer.

    Not a great deal can be said about the recipient of the letter. He or she had apparently shown Thorvaldsen some kind of attention and may have been in Rome, but the draft may also have been written during Thorvaldsen’s month-long stay in Naples in February 1797 and addressed to someone there. Nor is it known who the said sister is.
    Thiele I, p.112-113 suggests that the draft is a love note to Anna Maria Uhden, and although the text seems too formal, it might be the case, and she had a sister, but Thorvaldsen and Uhden probably did not start their relationship in 1797. This is most likely to have happened a year later, cf. Uhden’s biography.
    However, Thorvaldsen has signed the letter “Alberto”, which he did very rarely, but it is found in his letter dated 26.8.[1805] to Anna Maria Uhden. In section 3 of this sheet he has even written “Carissima Amica” – a form of address which he used with Uhden, and which might have been intended as the address in this draft letter. It is worth noting that Thorvaldsen adopted the name Alberto so soon after his arrival in Italy. Regarding this, see the related article, Alberto or Bertel.

  2. The sentence structure with the inserted personal pronoun suggests that Thorvaldsen, with his fairly modest knowledge of Italian, started the sentence on his own as the pronoun is not necessary in Italian but is part of the corresponding Danish sentence. Besides, the pronoun io disappears in the more finished version of the same sentence in the draft below, which might indicate that Thorvaldsen had help or thought better of it.

  3. The interpretation here is uncertain due to the fragmentary character of the text, the preceding illegible word, and the almost disappearing ink.
    The meaning of the word pregatarvi, however, might be either “… in which you ask for news …” (see the suggested translation in the comment above), or “in which I asked for news …”
    This looks like a beginner’s mistake with errors in the conjugation of verbs in tense and person.

  4. The reading of the word is uncertain. Given its placement, Thorvaldsen may have meant Cara/Caro.

  5. Probably an attempt at first person singular, futuro semplice of venire: verrò.

  6. It is unclear what Thorvaldsen meant here. Judging from the context, this might be a form of cercàre, i.e. to strive or try, see the suggested translation in the comment above.

  7. It is remarkable that Thorvaldsen, so early in his time in Italy, has adopted the form of Alberto instead of Bertel, which was unfamiliar and unpronounceable to Italians. See the related article, Alberto or Bertel.

  8. Regarding this Danish text, see the comment on section 2 of the text.

  9. The two Danish letter drafts in Thorvaldsens’s own hand in section 1 and 2 of the text are probably drafts of the same letter.
    One corner of the paper in section 2 has been torn off so that the first six lines of one text fragment are incomplete.
    The draft in this section is reproduced in Thiele I, p. 106 with the missing parts filled in.
    As the recipient of the letter is addressed with the familiar form of Du, the text is addressed to a close friend, who also knew Thorvaldsen’s parents, probably Jørgen West. See also the related article On Familiar Terms with Thorvaldsen.
    It seems reasonable to assume that the draft dates from around 20.3.1797, see the discussion about the date in the general comment.

  10. The word destination is suggested by Thiele I, p. 106.
    Considering the following line, the suggestion seems reasonable.

  11. Probably the letter dated 21.2.1797 from Thorvaldsen to his parents, for which his father thanks him in his letter dated 8.5.1797. This letter, now lost, from Thorvaldsen must have been enclosed in Thorvaldsen’s letter dated 13.2.1797 to the Academy of Fine Arts.
    The date of the letter, 21.2. instead of 12.2., may be a slip of the pen on the part of Thorvaldsen’s father, or the letter to the Academy of Fine Arts might have been forgotten and not sent until after 21.2.

  12. The disconnected words in section 3 of the text are probably writing samples.
    Thorvaldsen rarely used the address Carissima amica. Other known examples are seen in his letters dated June-July 1804 and [26.]8.1805 to Anna Maria Uhden, and the words here might be meant for her, see the comment on section 1 of the text.
    Regarding the fragment: “Kiöbenhanv d d 20 Mars”, see the discussion about the date.
    When Thorvaldsen writes Copenhagen (several times, see also section 4 of the text), it is probably because he was going to send a letter there.

  13. Stavemåden Kiöbenhanv med nv forekommer at være et karakteristisk eksempel på Thorvaldsens ordblindhed især i betragtning af, at han på samme ark, i tekstfelt 4 staver byens navn korrekt, se i øvrigt referenceartikel om Thorvaldsens tale- og skriftsprog.

  14. The short German note undoubtedly comes from the sculptor Peter Kauffmann, since the handwriting is the same as in Kauffmann’s letter dated 15.7.1822 to Thorvaldsen.
    Comments on Kauffmann’s short note are found in the discussion about the date in the general comment.

  15. Possibly the old padrona di casa Ursula or Orsola Polverini Narlinghi at 141 Via Sistina, with whomThorvaldsen and his friend and fellow artist Joseph Anton Koch lived 1800-1804, see the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Residences.

  16. The word fragments at the top of section 4 of the text are written with neatly traced flourishes and must be seen as writing samples.
    Thorvaldsen must have practiced writing the name and the initial of his native town because he was going to send a letter there.

  17. The short Italian text is probably written in Thorvaldsen’s hand. His knowledge of Italian, however, makes the meaning of the last sentence unclear. Thorvaldsen may have misunderstood the preposition “a”, but a possible reading might be: “…Ecco, me a te, [ma] dentro no”, which might be translated :

    You play the flirt
    look – me at you, but within no

    The conjugation of furbanella makes it clear that these lines are meant for a woman, and there is little doubt that the contents are of a sexual nature. The sexual play between sender and recipient is quite sophisticated: The woman is not a flirt but only pretends to be. They may play with each other but apparently only within certain limits (“…within no …”).
    Has Thorvaldsen copied these lines in order to have them ready for a suitable occasion?
    It is not known who was the object of the sculptor’s flirtation, but it might have been Anna Maria Uhden already so early in Thorvaldsen’s stay in Rome, see the comment on section 1 of the text.

Last updated 24.08.2017