Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location


Information on sender

Perfekt aftryk i rød lak af Thorvaldsens segl, som optræder nederst på alle Arkivets sider.


Kunstakademiet, København

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Ingen udskrift.

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.


Thorvaldsen regrets that his report to the Royal Academy has been delayed. He would have liked to be able to inform the Academy that the works he sent to Copenhagen have left Leghorn, which for unknown reasons is not the case. The difficulties of transportation prevent him from sending his latest works, i.e. a statue of The Goddess of Peace, and marble copies of two antique busts of Cicero, A760 / A761 and Agrippa, A759. At present, he is mainly working on Jason with the Golden Fleece, A52, and a marble copy of a bust of Raphael, A752.


Rom den 24de October 1800

Underdanigst Pro MemoriaI!

Jeg skulde alerede for nogen Tiid siden have opfyldet min pligtII at tilskrive det Kongelige Academie, dersom ieg ikke havde haabet tillige at kunde melde mine for Samme bestemte ArbeiderIII, som ieg i foraaret sendte til Livorno, derfra vare afgaaet til Kiøbenhavn, og for denne Omstændighed Skyld havde opsat at skrive indtil nu ieg seer at Sagen alt for længe udtrækkesIV. Ikke veed ieg hvorfor de saa lenge opholdes, skiønt CommissionærenV i Livorno, til hvilkken Casserne vare adresserede, og hos ham ankom i Begyndelsen af Aprilmaaned, adskillige Gange ved Breve har lovet at befordre dem med første sikre Leilighed, og at melde det hertil saa snart de var indskibede. Denne opholdelse som formodenligen er for Seiladsens VanskelighedVI i disse urolige Tiider, giør ogsaa at ieg opsætter at bortskikke hvad ieg siden den Tiid har forferdiget for AcademietVII, nemlig en Gruppe forestillende Fredens GudindeVIII der med Vinger siddende paa Jordkuglen holer i sin høire Haand en CaduceusIX og med den venstre Arm omfavner Overflødighedens GeniusX som staaer ved hendes Side paa Kuglen, under Hindes føder liger Kris Reskaber som Hund sederXI den venstre Fod paa: og to marmor Büster copierte efter Antikerne af CiceroXII og AgrippaXIII. Det er naturligt at ieg ønsker saa snart som mulig at skikke Academiet disse Prøver af min fremgang, haabende at Samme vil bedømme med sin sædvanlig Lemfældighed imod unge Artister, der med Iver stræber at giøre i Konsten den fremgang deres Evner og SituationXIV tillader dem! og naar ieg erfarer at der igen gives siker Leilighed fra Livorno til Kiøbenhavn skal ieg ikke forsømme ufortøvet at afsende demXV. Jeg skulde misbruge Academies Taalmodighed, dersom ieg vilde anføre forskielige arbeiderXVI som ieg har giord for at øve mig: Hvad for nærværende fornemmeligen beskæftiger mig er en nøgen Figur i naturlig Størrelse, som forrestiller IasonXVII i Begreb at vende tilbage til Skibet efter han har borttaget det gyldne FliisXVIII, som han bærer paa den venstre Arm holdende i den høire Haand et Spyd, og en Copie i marmor efter Raphaels BüsteXIX i RotondenXX, Saasom begge disse Ting inden kort Tiid vil blive færdige, og troer maaske at skikke Academiet dette istæden for de forhen anførte, og smiger mig med det Haab at de vil viidne om de fortskridte ieg Tiid efter anden giør i Konsten, der dagligen bliver mig kierere, skiønt ieg tillige dagligen mere indseer hvor langt ieg endnu er borte fra den Fuldkommenhed som findes i de Mesterstykker ieg her har for Øinene. Imidlertiid anbefalende mig til Academies vedvarende Velyndest,

B. Thorvaldsen

Oversættelse af dokument

Rome, October 24th 1800

Most humbly Pro Memoria!

Already some time ago I should have fulfilled my obligation to write to the Royal Academy if I had not hoped to be able to inform you that my works intended for the same, which I sent to Leghorn in spring, had been forwarded to Copenhagen, and because of this I had postponed writing, until I now see that the matter drags on too long. I do not know why they are detained for so long, although the commissary in Leghorn, to whom the crates were addressed and to whom they arrived at the beginning of the month of April, several times by letters has promised to convey them by the first safe opportunity and to inform us here as soon as they were put on board. This delay which most likely is due to the difficulties to navigation in these unsettled times, also has the effect that I postpone to ship what I since that time have made for the Academy, namely a group representing the Goddess of Peace who winged sitting on the globe in her right hand holds a Caduceus and with her left arm embraces the Genius of Plenty who stands at her side on the globe, under her feet is war equipment on which she is placing her left foot: and two marble busts, copied from the antiques of Cicero and Agrippa. It is natural that I wish as soon as possible to send these proofs of my progress to the Academy hoping that the same will judge by its usual lenience to young artists who with anxiety strive to make the progress in art which their abilities and situation permit them! And when I learn that a safe opportunity can be obtained from Leghorn to Copenhagen I shall not fail to ship them immediately. I should abuse the patience of the Academy if I mentioned various works which I have made to practise: what at present especially occupies me is a naked full-size figure which represents Jason returning to the ship after he has taken the golden fleece, which he is carrying on his left arm holding a spear in his right hand; and a copy in marble of Raphael’s bust in the rotunda. Seeing that both these objects will be finished before long I think perhaps that I will send these to the Academy instead of the formerly mentioned, and I indulge in the hope that they will give proof of the progress over time I make in art, which I daily become more attached to, though I also daily realize all the more how far I still am from the perfection which exists in the masterpieces that meet my eyes here. In the meantime I recommend myself to the continued favour of the Academy,

Most humbly,
B. Thorvaldsen

[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

Regarding receipt of this letter, the journal of the Academy of Fine Arts of 25.3.1801 (The Danish National Archives”:http://www.sa.dk/content/us/about_us/danish_national_archives, Kunstakademiets arkiv, Akademiforsamlingen) reads: “From the pensioner, sculptor Thorwaldsen a letter was received, dated Rome October 24th of last year: in this he announces that he has sent samples of his work to the Academy in the spring of last year which, presumably because of the present difficulties of transportation by sea, have not yet arrived. For this reason, he is eager to send a group he has executed representing the Goddess of Peace and two marble copies of antique busts; also a figure in full size representing Jason etc. In conclusion, he recommends himself to the favour of the Academy.”

Document Type

Færdigt egenhændigt dokument

Archival Reference

Rigsarkivet, Kunstakademiets arkiv, Akademiforsamlingen, journalsager, 1800, II, nr. 17.


Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 159-161.

Other references




A760 Cicero, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A760
A761 Cicero, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A761
A759 Agrippa, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A759
A752 Rafael, 1800, inv.nr. A752
A52 Jason med det gyldne skind, 1802-1803, inv.nr. A52


  1. Latin for “in remembrance”, used to recall oneself to somebody. The expression was originally a polite introduction in letters to persons of a higher rank, often civil servants. Gradually it was also used more generally in letters to or from officials, often written in one word. The expression appears frequently in the more formal letters in the Archive.

  2. According to the instructions of the Academy of Fine Arts of 23.8.1796,
    Thorvaldsen was to report on his activities every six months. The last report was dated 4.4.1800.

  3. In the spring of 1800 Thorvaldsen sent two crates to Leghorn. They contained, among other things, four works: two plaster copies of the head and the whole figure of Pollux, A54, one of the so-called Dioscuri; also two marble busts, one of Homer, A751, and the other of A.P. Bernstorff (Brahetrolleborg). See the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  4. The matter did, indeed, drag on. The two crates were not sent from Leghorn until 1802 and arrived in Copenhagen on the 10th of December of that year, see the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  5. The shipping agency of Jaume & Schwartz. The firm went bankrupt, which delayed the transport, see more in the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  6. As representatives of a neutral state, Danish ships had difficult conditions during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. English men-of-war insisted on searching Danish merchant vessels, which were therefore often escorted by Danish men-of-war. For instance, a convoy of six merchant ships escorted by the Danish Frigate Freja was seized by English ships in the summer of 1800. England demanded that Denmark not enter a league of armed neutrality in order to secure her ships, while the neutral states asserted their right to trade and sail under the motto: Free ship, free cargo.
    It was this conflict that led to the English attack on Denmark in the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.

  7. As Thorvaldsen was abroad at the expense of the Academy of Fine Arts and was to send back samples of his work, some of his works were made “for the Academy”.

  8. The work described here by Thorvaldsen is no longer known. According to Thorvaldsen’s information to the architect Frederik Ferdinand Friis it was destroyed, see point 14 in letter of 8.1.1829 from Friis to J.M. Thiele. See also the related article about Lost Works.
    Thorvaldsen’s descripton of the figure suggests that Peace followed the traditional pattern for this type of allegorical representations, cf. Erna Mandowsky (ed.): Cesare Ripa: Iconologia…, Hildesheim & New York 1970, p. 375. He returned to the subject in a slightly different version around 1811 in the drawings C1, C2r, C3r, C4, C5r, C5v and C700.

  9. A caduceus is a staff entwined by two snakes and crowned with wings. The staff is an attribute of the allegorical figure of Peace but is best known as one of the properties of Mercury. In antiquity the staff was the characteristic of the messenger and ensured a free and safe passage.
    The caduceus must not be confused with the rod of Asclepius, which is entwined by one snake and symbolizes medicine.

  10. I.e. a figure with a cornucopia illustrating the wealth that peace will bring was a common attribute of the allegorical figure of Peace.

  11. Dvs. uden Thorvaldsens karakteristiske stavefejl: “…under hendes Fødder ligger Krigsredskaber, som hun sætter den venstre Fod paa…”
    Se iøvrigt referenceartiklen om Thorvaldsens tale- og skriftsprog.

  12. In 1799-1800, Thorvaldsen made two marble busts of Cicero, A760 and A761.

  13. Thorvaldsen’s marble bust of Agrippa, A759.

  14. Here Thorvaldsen is probably alluding to his having come to Rome at a time when the repercussions of the French Revolution and the Revolutionary Wars affected the city several times. Conditions for studying and producing art were not the best; and one of the recurrent themes in Thorvaldsen’s reports to the Academy of Fine Arts from his earliest years in Rome is his difficulties as an artist.

  15. Thorvaldsen did not manage to ship some crates with works to the Academy of Fine Arts until the beginning of 1802, see the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  16. It is not known with certainty what other works Thorvaldsen is referring to. With this somewhat vague remark, Thorvaldsen may just have wanted to give the Academy the impression that he was working hard, cf. his self-ironic remark about his reports to the Academy in Estrup’s biography: “He did not forget to send the requested report every six months: it always sounded favourable; he wrote it himself.”
    According to Thiele I, p. 158 & IV, p. 254 and Thiele 1831, p. 45, Thorvaldsen was said to be occupied at this moment with a Pallas (Athena) and a Melpomene. However, it is not completely certain that these works date from this time.
    Regarding Pallas Athena Thiele apparently bases his knowledge on two sources, neither of which dates the work precisely: Frederike Brun writes in ‘Noget om den danske Billedhugger i Rom: Albert Thorvaldsen’, in: Athene, January 1815, p. 12, that a figure of Pallas Athena from his early years was severely criticized by Georg Zoëga. The same story is repeated by Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker in Zoega’s Leben, vol. II, Stuttgart & Tübingen 1819, p. 405, probably based on Friederike Brun, but without mentioning the figure of Pallas. It is uncertain where the dating of the work to 1800 comes from, but Thiele must have considered this year the most likely.
    Thorvaldsen doubted that Zoëga ever expressed such an opinion about his Pallas, see point 15 in letter of 8.1.1829 from Frederik Ferdinand Friis to Thiele.
    Regarding Melpomene the dating is more certain. Thiele 1831, p. 45 mentions that Friederike Brun saved a sketch of an approximately 75-centimer-tall statue “from destruction”, and that this sketch was in her possession. Moreover, an unnamed Danish artist, who was in Rome in 1803, remembers having seen Melpomene “executed in full size, and that it was later destroyed”, cf. Thiele 1831, p. 156.
    Thiele I, p. 158 merely writes that “…Fru Frederikke Brun had a sketch of a Melpomene …”, but not whether this sketch still exists, or whether the statue of the same sketch was destroyed.
    Regarding both Pallas and Melpomene, see the related article Lost Works by Thorvaldsen.

  17. The clay model of Thorvaldsen’s statue Jason with the Golden Fleece in its first version, which he destroyed in the spring of 1802 because he could not afford to cast it in plaster, see Thiele I, p. 165 and 172. Regarding the making of Jason, see the related article.
    Thorvaldsen’s description shows that the subject is quite fixed and corresponds with the work which was not finished in marble until many years later, A822.
    Here Jason is mentioned in the sources by name for the first time.
    However, it must be assumed that Thorvaldsen already refers to his prinical work in letter of 4.4.1800 to Abildgaard.

  18. Dvs. vlies, der stammer fra hollandsk og betyder fåreskind, se Ordbog over det danske Sprog.

  19. Thorvaldsen’s bust of Raphael, A752. The bust is a free version of the sculptor Pietro Paolo Baldini’s (also known as Naldini, ca. 1605-1650) bust of Raphael, which in 1674 was erected on the painter’s tomb in the Pantheon in Rome.
    Thorvaldsen’s bust was commissioned by Abildgaard in letter of 3.12.1799.

  20. I.e. in the Pantheon, which was also called La Rotonda.

Last updated 09.01.2018