Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location



Nicolai Abildgaard

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Ingen udskrift.

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.


Thorvaldsen reports that Captain Berger has agreed to ship five crates with artworks, books etc. from Leghorn to Copenhagen aboard the frigate Triton. One of the crates contains three volumes of the catalogue of the Museo Pio-Clementino, which Thorvaldsen has bought on behalf of Abildgaard.
 Economically, Thorvaldsen is hard-pressed as he needs money for his journey home.


Rom den 20 Mart 1802

Gode Hr Justizraad Abildgaard
Ved en Hendelse har ieg med stor Glæde imodtaget Deres Brev af 4de Oct:I efter det lang Tiid havde lagt paa Post HusetII her, at ieg ikke strax har opfyld min Pligt at besvare Deres Skrivelse har været for at tilvæebrenge de 3 Tommer af Museo Pio ClementinoIII, og derom at kunde give Dem efterretning.
I Følge af Deres Brev af 21 Julj 1800IV skrev ieg til Hr Capitain BergerV som Comandere Fregatten Triton i Livorno og bad ham om han vilde enskibe de der legendeVI til Dem adreserede KasserVII, hvorpaa han svarte migVIII venskabelig at han vilde tage dem, og tillige om ieg ellers havde noget som ieg ønskede hiem saa skulde ieg skikke ham det, som ieg strax benyttede mig af og sende den KasseIX med de ovenomtalde 3 Tommer som ieg har kiøbt til Dem, tillige med en anden KasseX med mine Bøger som begge lykkelig er ankommen til Livorno hvor Fregatten tager dem alle fire med til Kiøbenhavn. Fra Rom til Livorno har disse fire Kasser kostdet 44 Piaster 62 1/2 baiochiXI som ieg beder Dem at have den Godhed for mig at udbetale til Hr UlrichXII den danske Cunsul i Livorno tillige med det som han fordrer for sin Umage, som ieg igen skal give Dem med al Taknemmelighed, den minsteXIII af disse fire Kasser er Deres og de andre 3 Kasser tillige med den lidenXIV som De alt har, ønskede ieg at det var Dem mulig at forvare for migXV til ieg kommer hiem, men for alting paa et tør Sted, det er ikke alt mit som er i disse Kasser men ieg mener at det bliver det beste at lade dem urørte til ieg komner hiem for da bedere kan give enhver sit efter den NotaXVI som ieg her opskriver paa vad der tilhøre enhver. Jeg har bekommet Brev fra Her Frøli[ch]XVII hvori han giver mig Nota paa min pentionXVIII og aftrækker mig 87rd som er et stot Tab for mig paa nerverende Tiid da ieg behøver a[l]t til min HiemreiseXIX. Lev nu vel Hr Justizraad, ieg anbefaler mig til Deres vedvarende godhed som ieg har haft saa mange Prøver paa og henlever Deres opritige

i HastXX B. Thorvaldsen

[I marginen:] Jeg har i dette moment faaet efterretning fra Livorno at den siste Kasse med 5 Ma[r]mor BysterXXI som ieg sende til Livorno er ankommen og Fregatten har ogsaa taget den med, og er afgaaet fra Livorno Denne Kasse er Franco

Oversættelse af dokument

Rome, March 20th 1802

Sir, Counsellor Abildgaard,
As luck would have it I have received your letter of October 4th with great pleasure after it had lain here at the post office for a long time; that I did not immediately fulfil my obligation to answer your letter was due to the procurement of the three volumes of Museo Pio Clementino, and wishing to be able to inform you about it.
As a consequence of your letter of July 21st 1800 I wrote to Captain Berger who commands the frigate Triton in Leghorn and asked him to put on board the crates waiting there addressed to you, to which he answered me in a friendly way that he would take them and also if I had anything else which I wanted to take home I could send it to him, which I immediately made use of and sent the crate with the abovementioned 3 volumes which I have bought for you as well as another crate with my books both of which have happily arrived at Leghorn where the frigate will take all four of them to Copenhagen. From Rome to Leghorn these four crates have cost 44 Piaster 62½ bajocchi which I ask you to be so kind as to pay to Mr Ulrich, the Danish Consul in Leghorn, for me besides what he demands for his troubles, which I shall repay you with much gratitude; the smallest of these four crates is yours and the 3 other crates as well as the small one you already have I wish it will be possible for you to put away for me till I arrive home, but all the things in a dry place, all is not mine which is in these crates, but I think it will be best to leave them untouched till I come home so that I can better give everyone what is his according to the statement of what belongs to everybody, which I write here. I have received a letter from Mr Frölich in which he gives me a note of my pension and deducts 87 rix-dollars which is a great loss to me at present as I need everything for my journey home. Farewell, Sir, Counsellor, I sincerely commend myself to your continued kindness of which I have had so many proofs and pass time, Yours faithfully,

in haste B. Thorvaldsen

[In the margin] This moment I have had information from Leghorn that the last crate with 5 marble busts which I sent to Leghorn has arrived and the frigate has taken also this one and has left Leghorn. This crate is free of expense.

[Translated by Karen Husum]

Document Type

Færdigt egenhændigt dokument

Archival Reference

Håndskriftafdelingen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, NKS 2337, 2º.


Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 173-174.




A759 Agrippa, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A759
A760 Cicero, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A760
A761 Cicero, 1799-1800, inv.nr. A761
A752 Rafael, 1800, inv.nr. A752
A900 Edmund Bourke, 1800, inv.nr. A900


  1. Abildgaard’s letter of 4.10.1801.

  2. Around 1800 there were post offices in most cities. Letters from Denmark could both be sent to the post office in Rome and be delivered by messenger, as was apparently the case for most letters. For instance, see the letter of 16.8.1805 from C.F.F. Stanley to Thorvaldsen that mentions a postman delivering a letter.
    Abildgaard’s letter of 4.10.1801, which remained at the post office over the winter, was addressed in the usual way to Thorvaldsen, cf. the address, so it is unclear why Thorvaldsen was not told about it before. See also the related article about Postal Services.

  3. In letter of 3.12.1799 Abildgaard asked for 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).
    In two letters of 4.4.1800 and 24.10.1800, Thorvaldsen had written that he could not afford to lay out the money to buy the three volumes. As seen below, he did buy the catalogues in the end and sent them to Copenhagen by ship from Leghorn. See the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  4. Abildgaard’s letter of 21.7.1800.

  5. The Danish captain of the frigate Triton, Johan Hartvig Ernst von Berger.
    Thorvaldsen wrote to him in a now lost letter of 16.1.1802, asking to have his crates transported to Copenhagen on board the Danish frigate.

  6. Dvs. liggende.

  7. Here Thorvaldsen is referring to the first and second of the five crates which he had transported to Copenhagen on board the frigate Triton. He had already sent these two crates to Leghorn in the spring of 1800, while the last three were sent from Rome at the beginning of 1802, as appears below. Regarding these crates and the entire matter, see the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  8. Berger answered Thorvaldsen’s inquiry in his letter of 20.1.1802.

  9. The Third Crate of the five which the Triton transported to Copenhagen.

  10. The Fourth Crate of the five which the Triton transported to Copenhagen.

  11. The piaster was an Italian silver coin minted in the Papal States and other places. The bajocco/bajocchi was a small coin in the Papal States. There were 105 bajocchi to 1 piaster, while 1 bajocco = 1/100 of a Roman scudo, see also the related article about Monetary Units.

  12. The Danish consul in Leghorn, J.C. Ulrich, who helped Thorvaldsen to get the crates sent off.
    However, Abildgaard did not pay the money immediately to Ulrich, who blamed Thorvaldsen for this when the two of them met in 1804, cf. Thiele I, p. 225. The account was not settled until another two years later, see letter of 28.7.1806 from Ulrich to Thorvaldsen.
    Even though Thorvaldsen, in the present letter, writes that Abildgaard will recover his expenses, there was some uncertainty as to who was liable to pay for the transportation, see the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  13. The above-mentioned Third Crate with Abildgaard’s catalogues.

  14. I.e. the crate which Thorvaldsen sent to Copenhagen in the summer of 1798, see the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  15. Since Thorvaldsen did not return to Copenhagen immediately as was the plan at this moment, the crates remained at Abildgaard’s residence until his death in 1809. After that, Juliane Marie Abildgaard handed over the rest to C.A. Lorentzen of the Academy of Fine Arts, see his receipt of 19.4.1811 til to the widow.
    When Thorvaldsen asked Abildgaard – and not his father or his friend, Jørgen West – to keep his things, it is because the main contents of the crates were works of art which were to show his artistic progress to the Academy of Fine Arts.
    However, as he mentions below, there were objects in the crates which were meant for his friends, see e.g. the First Crate.

  16. The document mentioned is not known. Therefore it is not possible to make a complete identification of the contents of the crates, see the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  17. The merchant Frølich of the commercial house of Frølich & Co., Copenhagen, was obviously involved in the transfer of Thorvaldsen’s scholarship from Denmark to Italy.
    Frølich is mentioned in Carl Bruun: Kjøbenhavn. En illustreret Skildring af dets Historie, Mindesmærker og Institutioner, Copenhagen 1901, vol. 3, p. 805 and 844.

  18. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s travelling scholarship from the Academy of Fine Arts. The payment was the last installment of the scholarship. Thorvaldsen had been informed of the payment in Abildgaard’s previous letter of 4.10.1801.
    As appears below, 87 rix-dollars had been deducted from the scholarship, but it is not known why. Thiele I, p. 177-178 mentions the matter without any further explanation.
    This deduction has clearly come as an unpleasant surprise to Thorvaldsen, not least because 87 rix-dollars out of the annual 400 of the scholarship amounted to a considerable sum of money.

  19. In the early years of his scholarship in Rome, Thorvaldsen’s Financial Circumstances most often seem to have been difficult. All his life, however, he was known for his thrift, and Wilhelm Schadow, who shared hid lodgings in Casa Buti, tells in his fictionalized memoirs: Der moderne Vasari. Erinnerungen aus dem Künstlerleben. Novelle, Berlin 1854, p. 70, that Thorvaldsen was “…so mistrauisch gegen die Zukunft, dass er seine Stipendiegelder unter der Diele seines Zimmers verbarg, indem er dachte: Wenn ich nach vier [sic!] Jahren nach Kopenhagen zurückkehren muss, dann hab ich dort Nichts.” However, Schadow did not come to Rome until 1810, so he has not personally experienced that Thorvaldsen hid his scholarship money under the floor boards. He must have heard the story from Thorvaldsen, who may have exaggerated, and besides Schadow reproduces it in the fictional frame in which he presented his memoirs, so the story about the hidden money should probably be taken with a pinch of salt.

  20. The letter, however, does not seem to have been written in haste. There are no mistakes or deletions, and only the last marginal comment seems added in haste. Generally, the letter leaves only the impression of the careful and somewhat slow style that characterizes Thorvaldsen’s more “official” letters like this one.
    Thorvaldsen may have added “in haste” in order to excuse his spelling mistakes. In that case, this letter might be an example of the writing which Thorvaldsen did on his own without the help that he often received. Regarding this, see the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Spoken and Written Language.

  21. The five busts were: Edmund Bourke, A900, Raphael, A752, Agrippa, A759 and two busts of Cicero, A760 and A761.
    The busts were in the Fifth Crate that Thorvaldsen sent to Denmark on board the frigate Triton.

Last updated 30.01.2015