Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location



Nicolai Abildgaard

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Ingen udskrift.

Dating based on

Brevet er udateret, men dateringen fremgår af C.F. Høyers brev af 18.11.1806 til Abildgaard, hvor nærværende brev omtales.

Tidligere har man kun kunnet datere brevet til efter 21.09.1806, da et af udkastene til brevet er skrevet bag på brev af 21.9.1804 fra Giuseppe Grandi, se desuden den generelle kommentar.


Thorvaldsen has received payment for the three catalogue volumes of the Museo Pio Clementino. He corrects the misunderstanding that Abildgaard thought he wanted his professorial salary. Instead, Thorvaldsen asks for the last part of his travelling grant and reminds Abildgaard of his promise to help him. The marble busts of Jacob Baden, A863, and Mathias Saxtorph, A899, have both been completed and are ready to be shipped to Denmark. 
He asks Abildgaard to tell his father that he has asked Charlotte Schimmelmann to help him. He writes that he is happy sharing his lodgings with C.F. Høyer.


Gode Hr Justisraad!
Med megen Fornøyelse har jeg modtaget Deres Brev af 14de AugustI og erkjender jeg stedse Deres Omhygellighed for mig. – De 80 Scudi for Museo Pio ClementinoII har jeg rigtig bekommet. – Angaaende MisforstaaelsenIII med min Fordring paa AcademietIV – Da var det min Mening at Kjere Hr Justisraaden vilde have Omsorg for: at de 3 siste Qvartaler af mit Rejse Stipendium som jeg endnu haver tilgode, maatte blive mig udbetalte; og at De til den Ende vilde forlange af Frølich e Comp.V at meddele mig her en anvisning paa det af mit Rejse Stipendium som jeg ennu haver tilgode. – Professor Badens BysteVI er færdig og skal efter Forlangende blive afsendtVII tillige med et andet Byste til Doctor SchelVIII.
Uagtet jeg er forvisset om at De efter LøfteIX haver mig i Erindring tager jeg mig den Frihed: igjen at bede Dem: at have Omsorg for: at mig bliver sendt Penge saa snar som muligt. Thi det hænder sig ofte at de Penge jeg skulde oppebære ikke bliver mig betalte til rette Tiid, og jeg behøver Penge hver Dag for at bestride Udgivterne i mit VærstedX.
Naar De seer min gamle FaderXI er De saa god at hilse ham: at jeg har forlangt at [i.e. af] Baron SchubartXII at skrive til hans Syster Grevinde SchimmelmannXIII at vise Omhygelighed for hamXIV. Og at jeg med Taknemlighed derfor vilde ved mit Arbejde vise min Erkjenlihed.
At De Kjere Hr Justisraad haver Omsorg for min gamle Fader veed jeg; men hvad de Store giøre for ham, som var altiid saa rede til at loveXV, ved jeg ikke. Jeg anbefaler mig til Justisraadens vedblivende Godhed for mig og med Høyagtelse og Taknemmelighed forbliver jeg Deres

ærbødigste Tiener
B. Thorvaldsen

P.S. Hermed følger et Brev fra Hr HøyerXVI: det er et fortreflig Menneske jeg er saa glad at boe med hamXVII, og det lidet jeg kan giøre for ham giør jeg med Fornøyelse

Oversættelse af dokument

Good Sir, Councillor of Justice!

It was with great enjoyment that I received your letter of August 14th, and I acknowledge your solicitude for me as ever — I did duly receive the 80 Scudi for the Museo Pio Clementino. — As for the misunderstanding regarding my demand from the Academy — It was my intention that the dear sir, Councillor of Justice, would take care that the three last quarters of my stipend, which I still have owing to me, be disbursed to me, and that, to this end, you would request that Frølich & Co. send a bill of exchange to me here regarding the portion of my travel stipend that I still have owing to me. — Professor Baden’s bust is finished, and will be sent upon request, along with another bust for Doctor Scheel.
Although I am certain that you, as promised, have me in remembrance, I do nonetheless take the liberty of asking you once more to take care that I be sent money as soon as possible. For it often happens that the money I should receive is not paid to me at the proper time, and I need money every day in order to defray the expenses in my workshop.
When you see my elderly father, please greet him and say that I have asked Baron Schubart to write to his sister, Countess Schimmelmann, asking her to show him solicitude. And that in gratitude for this, I would show you my appreciation with my work.
That you, dear sir, Councillor of Justice, do care for my elderly father, that I know; but I do not know what the great ones, who are always so ready to make promises, do for him. I commend myself to the Councillor’s continuing kindness for me, and with all respect and gratitude remain your

most humble servant
B. Thorvaldsen

P.S. Here follows a letter from Mr Høyer:, who is an excellent person. I am so glad to live together with him, and what little I can do for him, I do with pleasure

[Translated by David Possen]

General Comment

Even though Abildgaard did not die until 1809, this is the last existing letter in the correspondence between the two artists, see a list of the entire correspondence in Abildgaard’s biography. It is known, however, that Abildgaard, probably in the autumn of 1806, sent a now lost letter to Thorvaldsen, in which he informed him about his father’s death, among other things, see letter of 4.7.1807 from Høyer to Abildgaard.

There are two drafts of this letter – a first draft, which Thorvaldsen wrote himself, and a second draft, written by his cohabitant C.F. Høyer. The two drafts must have been written in the sequence mentioned here as Høyer’s draft, unlike Thorvaldsen’s, is very close to the text of this finished letter.
The two drafts and the finished letter must have been written one shortly after the other, probably on the same day, because the first draft is written on the back of a letter from Giuseppe Grandi in Carrara, dated 21.9.1806. A letter from Carrara to Rome was probably at least two days in the post (see examples of mail processing times in the related article about this), so it must be assumed that Grandi’s letter arrived in Rome 23.9.1806. Thorvaldsen then wrote his first draft to Abildgaard on Grandi’s letter, after which Høyer corrected it so that the sculptor was able to write the final letter. The entire process probably took place on 23.9.1806.
See more about the changes that were made during the process of writing the letter in the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Letter Writing Process.

On Høyer’s draft, Just Mathias Thiele has written: “Draft by Hoyer of Thorvaldsen’s answer to Abild’s answer of 14.Aug.1806. The original is among Abildgaard’s papers.” However, Abildgaard’s widow, Juliane Marie Abildgaard later gave the original to Thiele, cf. his note in Thorvaldsen’s Archive, vol. I, p. 115. It is not known how it later ended up in N.C.L. Abraham’s’ collection of autographs in the Manuscript Department.

Document Type

Færdigt egenhændigt dokument

Archival Reference

Håndskriftafdelingen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Abr. nr. 2163, 4º.


Thiele II, p. 65-66.




A899 Mathias Saxtorph, ca 1800, inv.nr. A899
A863 Jacob Baden, 1806, inv.nr. A863


  1. I.e. Abildgaard’s letter of 14.8.1806.

  2. 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.

  3. In his previous letter of 14.8.1806, Abildgaard thought – without grounds – that Thorvaldsen wanted the salary that he would be entitled to as professor at the Academy if he were in Copenhagen. Thorvaldsen goes on to correct Abildgaard’s misunderstanding.

  4. Thorvaldsen is referring to the last portion of his travelling scholarship from the Academy of Fine Arts, which he had not yet received, cf. his letter of 18.6.1806. However, the Academy had stated that this final portion was to be spent on Thorvaldsen’s return journey to Denmark, cf. letter of 3.12.1799 from the Academy of Fine Arts to Thorvaldsen and his answer of 4.4.1800. However, after 6.3.1804, when Thorvaldsen’s continued stay in Italy was formally accepted by the Danish authorities – see the “related article”:/artikler/thorvaldsens-forbliven-i-rom-1803-04 about this –Thorvaldsen apparently did not regard the last portion of his scholarship as travelling funds. At any rate, through his cohabitant C.F. Høyer, he repeatedly and fruitlessly asked Abildgaard – in his capacity of director of the Academy – to let him have the money, see letters 18.11.1806, 30.1.1807, 4.7.1807 and 27.12.1807.
    There is even 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.
    The fact that Thorvaldsen did not get immediate access to the last portion of the scholarship might suggest that Abildgaard / the Acaddemy thought that travelling funds were travelling funds and should/could not be used for Thorvaldsen’s continued stay in Italy in spite of Abildgaard’s sympathy for the sculptor’s continuance in Italy – see the related article about this. Instead of telling Thorvaldsen this straight out, Abildgaard seems at first to have chosen to misunderstand Thorvaldsen’s request and then to ignore it.

  5. I.e. the commercial house of Frølich & Co., Copenhagen, which was involved in the transfer of Thorvaldsen’s scholarship from Denmark to Italy, see letters of 20.3.1802 and 14.8.1806.
    Frølich is mentioned in Carl Bruun: Kjøbenhavn. En illustreret Skildring af dets Historie, Mindesmærker og Institutioner, Copenhagen 1901, vol. 3, p. 805 and 844.

  6. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s marble bust of the Danish philologist Jacob Baden, A863. Abildgaard commissioned the bust in letter of 29.12.1804.

  7. The bust, however, was not sent to Denmark immediately. It was not shipped to Denmark until 1825, see letter of 2.7.1825, no 49.

  8. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s bust of the Danish doctor Mathias Saxtorph, A899, which the Danish-German doctor Poul Scheel had commissioned from Thorvaldsen after Saxtorph’s death, see more about this in the related article Saxtorph’s Bust.
    There was a lively correspondence between Scheel and Thorvaldsen about the bust, which was not sent home immediately, however, but only arrived in Copenhagen with Thorvaldsen’s other works in 1838 and only then was delivered to the family.
    In one of the drafts of this letter, Thorvaldsen writes the following: “… together with Saxtorph’s bust which between us I have not made myself …” Regarding the authorship of the bust, see the related article mentioned above.

  9. Thorvaldsen is referring to Abildgaard’s latest letter of 14.8.1806, in which the professor wrote: “… you shall shortly receive 100 rix-dollars D.C. as part-payment of Baden’s bust …” The bust was priced at 200 rix-dollars.
    Thorvaldsen had already asked for an advance in his letter of 18.6.1806, and he must have been really short of money as his request here is unusually explicit. It is not known when Thorvaldsen received payment for the bust, but it must have been not later than 1825, when the bust was finally sent to Denmark and delivered to the Baden family, cf. no 49 in letter of 2.7.1825.

  10. Thorvaldsen was to pay the expenses for his assistants, moulders, stone carvers, etc., see the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Assistants.

  11. I.e. Gotskalk Thorvaldsen. The son’s greeting and message to his father probably never reached him. The father died at Vartov 24.10.1806.
    Abildgaard wrote another letter to Thorvaldsen, in which he informed him of his father’s death. C.F. Høyer refers to this in a letter of 4.7.1807 to Abildgaard but mentions that Abildgaard’s letter never reached Rome.

  12. The Danish diplomat and Thorvaldsen’s friend, Herman Schubart.

  13. The Danish salon hostess Charlotte Schimmelmann.

  14. If Thorvaldsen asked Schubart to do this, it must have been done orally. There is no trace of his request in the correspondence with Schubart. However, Thorvaldsen had ample opportunity to get support from Charlotte Schimmelmann as he was executing the Baptismal Font, cf. A555,1, A555,2, A555,3, A555,4, for Brahetrolleborg Church, commissioned by her and Schubart; see more in the related article about the Baptismal Font.

  15. This socially conscious comment, here rewritten by C.F. Høyer, appears less pithy than Thorvaldsen’s original wording: “great people easily forget what they promise”. Høyer may have thought that Thorvaldsen’s remark was too direct.
    The statement is a good example of the sculptor’s ability to make epigrams, see the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Spoken and Written Language.

  16. Letter of 23.9.1806 from C.F. Høyer to Abildgaard, Manuscript Department, the Royal Library, NKS 2337, 2º. The sculptor, however, is not mentioned in Høyer’s letter.

  17. Høyer also lived in Casa Buti, the same house as Thorvaldsen, see the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Cohabitants in Casa Buti.

Last updated 09.10.2015