Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location



Nicolai Abildgaard

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Tilskrift: Til S. TI / Her Justiceraad / Abildgaard

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet. Listen, der er vedlagt brevet, skal højst sandsynlig dateres samtidig, se den generelle kommentar.


Thorvaldsen thanks Abildgaard for helping Gotskalk Thorvaldsen. The war has given Thorvaldsen financial problems, and he requests that his fee for the bust of Jacob Baden, A863, be sent to Rome. Thorvaldsen asks Abildgaard to sell some of the busts he has sent to Copenhagen. He hopes to receive a commission for Christiansborg Palace soon.
Enclosed: a list of prices of works by Thorvaldsen.


Rom 18 Juni 1806.

Tak gode Hr Justiceraad for al Deres beviste Godhed imod min FaderII, hvilket er mig lige saa kiært som den Omhu De har havt for mig til min Befo[r]dringIII mit Ønske er kun i Fremtiden at kunde vise min Erkjænlighed og Taknemlighed imod Dem Hr Justiceraad som De fortiener og som jeg vist aldri skal glemme.
Da Roms Skiæbne er Hvad de Franske vilIV, og Krigen forhindrer ofte Udbetalingen for de Arbeider man har bestilt hos mig saa jeg er i Forleægenhed for Penge og maa bede Dem værre af den Godhed at tilsende mig den Summa for Badens BysteV som jeg nu har begyndt paa. Museum Pio ClementinoVI har jeg betalt 80 Scudi for og giver det gærne til Academiet. RothesVII saavel som de andre BysterVIII kan De sælge for Hvad Justiceraaden vil[,] alt er velgiodt saa lidet det enog er, er det dog en Jelp i paakommende Tilfelder, da jeg nødig vil gribe til den Summa som er mig bestemdt af Academiet til min TilbagerejseIX, og derfor ennu ikke har hævet samme. Om det Arbeide til SlottetX som man har lovet mig, ønskede [jeg] at man ville giøre ende paa, og beder Dem gode Hr Justiceraad at tenkke paa mig desangaaende
Mine hjerteligste Ønsker for Deres Sundhed og Velgaaende beste Hr Justiceraad og troe mig med den sandest Høiagtelse forbliver jeg

Deres ærbødigste
og hengivne Tjener
B. Thorvaldsen

[bilagXI, skrevet af Christian Hornbech]
ProfessorXII Thorvaldsen i Rom
Dansk Billedhugger.
udarbeider i Marmor.

En Figur af 6 PalmersXIII Høide  
    for 600 ScudiXIV. –
– – – 7 Palmers – 800 Scudi. –
– – – 8 Palmers – 1000 Scudi. –
– – – 10 Palmers – 2000 Scudi. –
I Basrelief koster hver Hovedfi=
XV som er 2 1/2 Palme 100 Scudi
Et Brystbillede som er Portrait og
lidet over naturlig Størrelse
      200 Scudi
Et Brystbillede som er Copie efter
XVII og kolosalsk fra
      60 indtil 100 Scudi.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Af Figurer som ere færdige kan
erholdes af 7 Palmers Høide
HebeXVIII. –
af 6 Palmers Høide ––
Venus, Bachus, Ganymedes,
Apollo, Psyche, og Amor
SocratesXX Brystbillede til 60 Scudi
JustiniansXXI – – – – – – – 80 Scudi.

[næste side]
En Figur som er 6 Palmer
koster 60 Scudi for FormenXXII
og siden 10 ScudiXXIII for
hver Afstøbning i Gyps.

Oversættelse af dokument

Rome, June 18th 1806

Thank you dear Sir, for all your kindness shown to my father, which is just as dear to me as the solicitude you have shown for me to my promotion, my wish is only in the future to be able to show my appreciation and gratitude to you, Sir which you deserve and which I shall certainly not forget. As the fate of Rome is what the French decide and the war often prevents payment for the works which I have been commissioned so I have financial difficulties and must ask you to be as kind as to send me the sum for Baden’s bust, which I have now started. I have paid 80 Scudi for Museo Pio-Clementino and willingly give it to the Academy. Rothe’s as well as the other busts you can sell for what you please, Sir all is well executed no matter how little it is, it is still an assistance should the occasion arise, as I with reluctance will resort to the sum which has been intended for my return journey by the Academy, which is why I have not drawn the same.
As for the work at the palace which I have been promised I wished it to be finished and ask you, dear Counsellor to think of me as regards that.
My most cordial wishes for your health, dear Counsellor and believe with true respect I remain

Yours faithfully and sincerely,
B. Thorvaldsen

[enclosure written by Christian Hornbech]
“Professor”: Thorvaldsen in Rome
Danish sculptor.
Completed in marble.

One figure 6 palms of height  
    at 600 scudi
– – – 7 palms – 800 scudi –
– – – 8 palms – 1000 scudi –
– – – 10 palms – 2000 scudi –
In bas-relief each main figure which is 2½ palms 100 scudi
A half length picture which is a portrait and
a little more than life-size
      200 scudi
A half length picture which is a copy after
and colossal from
      60 to 100 scudi

– – – – – – – – – – – –

From figures which have been finished can
be obtained of 7 palms’ height
of 6 palms’ height ––
Venus, Bacchus, Ganymede,
Apollo, Psyche, and Cupid
Socrates a half length picture at 60 scudi
Giustiniani – – – – – – – 80 scudi

[next page]
A figure which is 6 palms
costs 60 Scudi for the mould
and after this 10 Scudi for
each casting in gypsum.

[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

There are three drafts of this letter – a fragment, of which only a copy exists, another fragment on the back of the drawing C10r, and a slightly more detailed draft on the back of the drawing C12r.

Strictly speaking, the enclosed list could belong to another letter as the list is written on a separate piece of paper. However, there are several reasons why the list has probably been enclosed in the present letter and thus can be dated together with the letter. Firstly, both the letter and the list are written on fairly small pieces of paper (18,5×11,2 cm and 16,5×10,1 cm, respectively) with distinct creases which show that they may have been sent together. As Thorvaldsen’s letter has no address, it must have been sent inside another letter. It is natural to guess that the letter of the same day, 18.6.1806, from Thorvaldsen’s cohabitant C.F. Høyer, also addressed to Abildgaard, has contained Thorvaldsen’s letter and the list. Høyer’s letter has been folded in such a way that it could just have enclosed Thorvaldsen’s folded letter and the list.
Secondly, the list has been written at the earliest after 26.5.1806, when the said Hebe, A37, was commissioned, and at the latest in November-December 1806, when Christian Hornbech, who wrote the list, left Rome, cf. letters of 18.11.1806 and 30.1.1807. These time limits further increase the probability that the list was written and sent together with the letter with which the list is preserved in the Manuscript Department.
The list has undoubtedly been written in connection with Thorvaldsen’s remark in the letter above regarding the possibility of a commission of works for Christiansborg. The list could show the appropriate authorities in Denmark what the sculptor was able to do. With the list, Thorvaldsen could also send the message that he was at the Danish King’s / State’s disposal, to which – as the absolute king’s subject and a royal academy scholar – he was formally bound, see more about this in the related article Thorvaldsen’s Continuance in Rome 1803-1804.

Document Type

Færdigt egenhændigt dokument


Christian Hornbech

Comment on amanuensis

Selve brevet er skrevet af Thorvaldsen, men den tilføjede liste er formodentlig skrevet af arkitekten Christian Hornbech, hvilket sammenligninger med Hornbechs skrift mere end antyder. Hornbech stod i øvrigt i nær kontakt med Abildgaard og har antagelig derfor gerne har villet være Thorvaldsen behjælpelig med et brev til deres fælles mentor.

Archival Reference

Håndskriftafdelingen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, NKS 2337, 2º


Gengivet hos Thiele II, p. 59-60, bortset fra den tilføjede liste.




A863 Jacob Baden, 1806, inv.nr. A863
A225 Tyge Rothe, 1797, inv.nr. A225
A208 A.P. Bernstorff, 1797, inv.nr. A208
A751 Homer, 1799, inv.nr. A751
A752 Rafael, 1800, inv.nr. A752
A759 Agrippa, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A759
A760 Cicero, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A760
A761 Cicero, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A761
A37 Hebe, 1806, inv.nr. A37
A2_ Bacchus, 1804, inv.nr. A2
A3 Apollon, 1805, inv.nr. A3
A12 Venus med æblet, 1813-1816, inv.nr. A12
A28 Amor og Psyche, ca 1807, inv.nr. A28
A41 Ganymedes rækker skålen, 1804, inv.nr. A41


  1. I.e. salvo titulo, which is Latin for subject to the title. The expression could be used in addresses on letters to indicate that one did not know the correct title, or that this formality was not necessary.

  2. Thorvaldsen is referring to Abildgaard’s help in connection with Gotskalk Thorvaldsen’s admittance to Vartov, which Abildgaard had mentioned in his previous letter of 19.10.1805. See also the related article regarding this.

  3. Dvs. til hans fremme, se betydning 3 i Ordbog over det danske Sprog.

  4. After the battle of Austerlitz 2.12.1805 and the subsequent peace with Austria in Pressburg / Bratislava 25.12.1805, Napoleon was even more powerful in Italy. The country had already been proclaimed a kingdom with Napoleon as King and Empress Josephine’s son Eugène de Beauharnais as Viceroy. The Pope and the Papal States were under French suzerainty. In the spring of 1806, Napoleon’s brother Joseph was appointed King of Naples; one of his sisters Elisa Baciocchi got Lucca; the other sister Pauline Borghese and her husband Prince Camillo Borghese got Guastalla. Several of Napoleon’s generals “were endowed with” small Italian duchies.
    Regarding the French ravages in Italy, see also C.F. Høyer’s letter of 18.6.1806.

  5. I.e. the 200 rix-dollars that Thorvaldsen’s bust of Jacob Baden, A863, was going to cost, see Abildgaard’s previous letter of 19.10.1805.
    The bust had been commissioned by Abildgaard on behalf of Baden’s widow in letter of 29.12.1804.

  6. Three volumes of the catalogue of the part of the Vatican collection which is in the so-called Museo Pio-Clementino, established by the popes Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799). The title of the catalogue is: Il Museo Pio-Clementino, descritto da Giambattista e Ennio Qvirino Visconti, T. I-VI, Roma 1782-96, (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M134).
    Abildgaard asked for these catalogues the first time in letter of 3.12.1799. Thorvaldsen sent them to Copenhagen in 1802, see letter of 20.3.1802 and the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  7. Thorvaldsen’s bust of Tyge Rothe, A225.

  8. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s busts of A.P. Bernstorff (Brahetrolleborg, cf. A208); Homer, A751, Raphael, A752; Agrippa, A759; Cicero, A760 and A761.
    However, none of the busts were sold as Thorvaldsen hoped they would be, cf. the following sentence.

  9. In letter of 3.12.1799, the Academy of Fine Arts had stated that the last sixth of Thorvaldsen’s six-year travelling scholarship was to be spent on his return journey to Denmark. This final portion of 400 rix-dollars, however, was not transferred to the Roman banker Domenico Lavaggi until October 1801, see letter of 4.10.1801. So Thorvaldsen here asserts that, in spite of a shortage of money and no plans for an immediate return to Denmark, he still had not withdrawn the money from the banker.
    There is some indication that Thorvaldsen did not get the money until 1822, when he asked Peder Malling to withdraw the money on his behalf in Copenhagen, see letter of “15.10.1822”:/dokumenter/m71822,nr.56.

  10. I.e. the works for Christiansborg Palace, see the “related article “:/artikler/bestillingen-til-christiansborg regarding this. As he goes on to say, Thorvaldsen had been promised commissions for the palace already at the beginning of 1804, so here he is asking Abildgaard, a little impatiently, to try to find out what is happening in the matter.
    Thorvaldsen’s cohabitant C.F. Høyer was a little more direct in his request to Abildgaard to secure commissions for Thorvaldsen, see his letter of 18.6.1806.

  11. This list is written in a different hand from Thorvaldsen’s, probably the Danish architect Christian Hornbech, see the comment on the copyist below. Regarding the list, see also the general comment.
    Regarding the prices quoted, see the related article about “The Prices of Thorvaldsen’sWorks”:/artikler/thorvaldsens-vaerker-priser.

  12. Thorvaldsen was appointed professor at the Academy of Fine Arts 7.6.1805.

  13. The unit of measurement a Roman palm (Italian: palmo, Latin: palmus) is 0,223 m, see also the related article about Weights and Measures. 6 palms, then, correspond to ca 133 cm.

  14. The Italian monetary unit scudo, see the related article about Monetary Units.
    Regarding the prices of Thorvaldsen’s works throughout his career, see more in the related article.
    As can be seen, the price does not rise consistently by 200 scudi with every extra palm in height. This, of course, is due to the fact that the volume of the statue does not grow in direct ratio to its height. The volume of statues rather grows with the third power of their height, and therefore the price of a statue goes up proportionally more, the taller the statue becomes.

  15. Apparently Thorvaldsen also used this computational principle for determining prices of reliefs in 1804-05 in connection with Theodor von der Ropp’s Commission of, among other things, the first marble version of Briseis and Achilles, cf. A489. Then, however, the price was lower: Thorvaldsen set the price of the five figures in the relief of just under 1 metre, i.e. ca 4 palms, at 110 scudi a piece.

  16. The quoted price of 200 scudi for a portrait bust in marble corresponds to the prices Thorvaldsen charged for Ivan Vorontsov?, A302 and Jevdokija Ivanovna Golitsyna, A304, which were part of the Russian Countesss Irina Vorontsova’s Commission in 1804.

  17. The quoted prices of marble copies after antique busts correspond to the prices Thorvaldsen charged for the eight busts in von der Ropp’s Commission in 1804-05.

  18. Thorvaldsen’s statue of Hebe, A37, in the first version of the figure with half-covered torso.
    The figure, however, had not been completed when the letter was written. Hebe had only just been commissioned by the Danish naval officer Johan Christian August Bielke, see contract of 26.5.1806.

  19. I.e. the five statues that either had been or were being executed for the commission of Irina Vorontsova, Venus (the early, smaller version of the figure which was only resumed 1813-16, cf. A12); Bacchus, A2; Ganymede, A41; Apollo, A3; Cupid and Psyche, A28.
    There is more about this in the related article Vorontsova’s Commission.

  20. This is most likely a marble copy after an antique bust of Socrates in the Villa Albani in Rome. The making of the copy of the bust in Thorvaldsen’s workshop is documented in letter of 30.8.1805.
    The whereabouts of the bust is unknown today, but read more about it in Busts of Socrates and Apollo 1805-06.

  21. This is most likely a marble copy of the famous head of Apollo Giustiniani, then in the equally famous Giustiniani collection in Rome.
    Read more about this in Busts of Socrates and Apollo 1805-06.
    Today Thorvaldsen’s copy of the bust is in the Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid.

  22. I.e. a so-called “piece” mould cast after the so-called original plaster, i.e. finished statues which Thorvaldsen had in his workshop.
    Since the list has to be understood as an advertisement for those works by Thorvaldsen that were ready for delivery, this is not a so-called “waste” mould cast, i.e. the first cast of the clay model of a new statue because that would imply a commission for a completely new statue.

  23. In other words, the first cast of a sculpture cost 60 scudi because it required the making of a so-called “piece” mould, while subsequent casts could be made in the same mould, and therefore the price was only 10 scudi.

Last updated 21.08.2015