Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location



Kunstakademiet, København

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Ingen udskrift.

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet, skønt der først har stået 1789, som er blevet rettet til 1799. På et sandsynligvis senere tidspunkt er der tilføjet (98) i parentes ovenover 1799. Der er imidlertid ingen tvivl om, at det korrekte år er 1799, da brevets modtagelse nævnes i Kunstakademiets dagbog 25.11.1799. Samme forveksling af 1789 og 1799 optræder også i Thorvaldsens brev af samme dato til Abildgaard.


Both Thorvaldsen’s semi-annual report to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and the works he was to send have been delayed due to the war. He has made half-size copies of the head of one of the Dioscuri, Pollux, and the whole figure of the same. He intends to send these works along with the marble busts of Homer and A.P. Bernstorff to the Academy for its evaluation. He requests the Academy to prolong his grant so that he can either remain in Rome or study works of art in other places on his way home if war breaks out again.


Rom d. 12de october 1799I

Underdanigst Pro MemoriaII!

Formedelst den lange BeleiringIII som vi her har været i, har ieg ikke kundet opfylde min PligtIV og underdanigste Skyldighed at tilskrive det Kongelige Academie og skikke samme noget af mit Arbeide. Da tiderne nu har andert sigV, saa giver ieg mig den Ære at melde Academiet at ieg har copert Hovedet af PolluxVI paa Monte Cavallo som ieg har modellert halv Størrelse efter Gibs Originalen. Siden har ieg bekommet tilladelse at staae i Palais ConsultaVII hvor ieg har coperet hele FigurenVIII af samme i halvnaturlig Størrelse, som ieg har ladet forme og indpakke tillige med HomersIX og salig BernstorffX Büster i Marmor for at sendeXI dem med førsteleilighed til det Kongelige Academie, ønskende at samme maatte imodtage mine her udførte Arbeider med lige Godhed som De forhen har anseet mine ufuldkomne ForsøgXII.
Min Skiebne har vildet at ieg skulde komme til Rom og der opholde mig i tider som for Konsten har været saare ugunstige, og endnu veed ieg ikke hvad man forfremtiden kan love. Dog synnes det at man kan haabe at freden vil vende tilbage og Konsterne her nyde samme Rolighed og Sikkerhed som tilfaarenXIII. Skulde dette Haab blive opfyldt da vilde ieg ivrigst ønske at kunde her fortsette min StudieXIV, men dersom nye uroligheder skulde betrue denne Bye, da maatte ieg søge at komme bort herfra saa snart de Arbeider som ieg har nu under Hænder tilader det. I den ene saa vel som i den anden fald forlader ieg mig paa at Academiet gunstigst vil understøtte mig, enten til at blive her eller til at forretage Hiemreisen saaledes at ieg under Veis opholder mig paa de Steider som i Henseende til Konsten fortiener en Reisendes Opmerksomhed.

B. Thorvaldsen

Oversættelse af dokument

Rome, October 12th 1799

Most humble Pro Memoria!

Because of the long siege we have suffered here, I have not been able to fulfil my obligation and most humble duty to write to the Academy and send it proofs of my work. As times have now changed I have the honour of informing the Academy that I have made a copy of the head of Pollux on Monte Cavallo which I have modelled half-size after the plaster original. Since then I have received permission to stand in Palais Consulta where i have made a copy of the whole figure of the same in half-size, which I have had formed and packed up as well as Homer’s and the late Bernstorff’s busts in marble to send them at the first opportunity to the Academy, wishing that you may receive my finished works with as much kindness as you have earlier looked upon my imperfect attempts. My fate has willed it so that I was to arrive in Rome and live there during times that have been rather unfavourable to art, and I still do not know what can be promised for the future. Yet it seems that we may hope peace will return and the arts here will enjoy the same peace and security as previously. Should this hope be fulfilled I should most ardently wish to be able to continue my studies here, but if new violence should threaten this city, I would have to endeavour to get away from here as soon as the works I have taken charge of will permit it. In the first case as well as in the other I rely on the most favourable support from the Academy either to stay here or to undertake the journey home so that I on the way stay in places which as regards art deserve the attention of a traveller.

Most humbly,
B. Thorvaldsen

[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

Regarding receipt of this letter, the journal of the Academy of Fine Arts of 25.11.1799 (The Danish National Archives, Kunstakademiets arkiv, Akademiforsamlingen) reads: “Since the last meeting, the following letter, dated Rome October 12 1799, has arrived from the pensioner Thorvaldsen in Rome.” Then the above letter is quoted, and the academy secretary continues: ”It was then resolved to grant Thorvaldsen another two years with the stipulation that the pension for the last of these two years be spent on his return journey.”
The Academy of Fine Arts granted Thorvaldsen’s application in letter of 3.12.1799.

Document Type

Færdigt egenhændigt dokument

Archival Reference

Rigsarkivet, Kunstakademiets arkiv, Akademiforsamlingen, journalsager, 1799, II, nr. 41.


Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 142-143.




L123 Pollux , 170-180, inv.nr. L123
L124 Castor , 170-180, inv.nr. L124
A54 Pollux, 1799, inv.nr. A54
A208 A.P. Bernstorff, 1797, inv.nr. A208
A751 Homer, 1799, inv.nr. A751


  1. The year has been changed from 1789 to 1799, see the dating criteria.

  2. 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.

  3. Thorvaldsen is referring to the siege of Rome, which started 10.2.1798 when the French captured the city. After several battles the Neapolitans relieved the city 30.9.1799.

  4. According to the instructions of 23.8.1796, given to Thorvaldsen on his departure, he was to inform the Academy of Fine Arts of his activities every six months and send some of his works for the evaluation of the Academy.
    Thorvaldsen’s latest report to the Academy was from 3.1.1799, so this letter was four months late. .

  5. The French had now left the city, cf. the commentary above.

  6. A copy of the head of one of the so-called Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, on Monte Cavallo on the Quirinal Hill in Rome.
    Thorvaldsen himself owned copies of the heads of both Dioscuri in the original size, which are now in Thorvaldsens Museum, L123 and L124.

  7. Palazzo Consulta is on the Piazza di Monte Cavallo, very close to the Dioscuri. Thorvaldsen may have wanted to work close to the original sculpture in order to practise copying a figure freehand.

  8. This cast of Pollux was transported in a crate which was broken when it arrived in Copenhagen, see letter of 31.1.1805 from Abildgaard and the related article about Transportation of Crates. Probably Pollux and also the above-mentioned head of the same figure were broken along with the crate.
    In 1815 Thorvaldsen, in collaboration with the architect Peder Malling, sent a number of casts to the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen at the request of Prince Christian (8.) Frederiks, see Malling’s list of the shipment.
    The Pollux which was sent to the Academy on this occasion is probably identical with the Pollux which in 1933 was deposited in Thorvaldsens Museum from the Academy, Dep.24. This old tradition in the Academy of Fine Arts is attributed to Thorvaldsen.
    However, there is another version of Pollux, A54, in Thorvaldsens Museum, about 1/3 size, but this is probably a later version which came to Copenhagen in the 1830s with Thorvaldsen’s works.

  9. Thorvaldsen’s marble bust of Homer, A751. The bust is an Hermæan copy after an antique portrait of Homer in the Museo Nazionale in Naples, cf. two plaster casts in Thorvaldsen’s collection of casts, L137 and L138.

  10. The marble bust of A.P. Bernstorff (Brahetrolleborg), which Thorvaldsen carved in Rome ca. 1797-98. On the basis of the mask, A724, of the bust from 1795, A856, Thorvaldsen modelled a new bust of Bernstorff in 1797 in the classical style or à la romaine, i.e. without a whig and drapings. The original plaster model of this bust is in Thorvaldsens Museum, A208.
    See Else Kai Sass: Thorvaldsens Portrætbuster, Copenhagen 1963-65, vol. III, p. 60 (no. 15) & 62 (no. 27).

  11. In the spring of 1800 Thorvaldsen sent two crates to Copenhagen with the works mentioned here, but for various reasons they were left in Leghorn and not sent on until 1802, see the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  12. Thorvaldsen is here referring to the works which he had had evaluated by the Academy before his departure from Copenhagen.
    At this moment he had not yet had any reaction to the first crate of his works which he had sent to Copenhagen in 1798, see the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  13. Dvs. til forn, tidligere.

  14. In a letter of 19.3.1799 from the Academy of Fine Arts, Thorvaldsen had had his three-year travelling scholarship prolonged by only one year because at that time the Academy had not yet had the opportunity to evaluate any of the works he had sent home.
    The common practice used to be that the recipients of the academy scholarships travelled for six years. See F. Meldahl & P. Johansen: Det kongelige Akademi for skjønne Kunster, 1700-1904, Copenhagen 1904, supplement XXV (Regulation of 21.6.1771). In July 1790, however, the King had approved a proposal from Abildgaard to limit the period of travels abroad to three years and only to grant a prolongation to four, five, or six years “when the student abroad through unusual talent, combined with continuous diligence, gave reason to hope that he would to achieve a high degree of perfection in his art”, ibid., p. 105.
    When Thorvaldsen here applies for a prolongation of his travelling scholarship, he has probably been invited to do so by the academy secretary, Cornelius Høyer, see draft letter of 19.3.1799.

Last updated 17.07.2017