3.12.1799

Sender

Nicolai Abildgaard

Sender’s Location

København

Recipient

Bertel Thorvaldsen

Recipient’s Location

Rom

Information on recipient

Ingen udskrift.

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.

Abstract

Abildgaard reports that the works Thorvaldsen sent to Copenhagen have arrived safely. He compliments Thorvaldsen’s works. His travelling grant has been prolonged for another two years, and the payment for one year can be advanced to him, permitting him to choose freely whether to remain in Rome or go somewhere else. Abildgaard wants Thorvaldsen to carve marble copies of two busts: Raphael, A752, in the Pantheon and Homer, A751. He suggests sending them over land circumstances permitting. He sends his regards to Georg Zoëga and reassures Thorvaldsen of his friendship.

Document

Kiøbenhavn 3de Dec: 1799.

Deres Brev af 12te OctoberI har ieg med fornøyelse imodtaget, da ieg deraf seer at De endnu er heel og holden.
Kassen er endelig ankommenII, men Dyr var den, fra Rom og til Livorno har den koste 62 rdr som er aabenbare Bedragerie. alt hvad der var i den befandtes i god tilstand. Deres GruppeIII som ieg tilegner migIV er skiøn, og giør Dem Ære. Det Store Bacchus HovedV Pynter mine stuer. Icke alene ieg men enhver som seer Rothes BusteVI er meget velfornøyet med den, som icke lidet glæder mig, ieg har af gode GrundeVII icke foreviist den i Academiet, men hvem der har villet see den har maatte komme til mig. De seer nu af Acad: BrevVIII, at Deres Stipen[dium] er atter forlænget paa to Aar, og at naar De vil bliver Dem et Aar[s] Pension forud udbetalt. De er hermed Deres egen Herre og De kan reise eller blive som De finder for got. Dette er heller icke avgaaen uden BryderieIX. Kiære ven, De tilbyder mig Deres tieneste, inden De forlader Rom. Vil De forskaffe mig den 3die 5te og 6te Deel af Museo Pio ClementinoX, men see vel til at de ere komplete. Kunde De overkomme nogle helst græske MedaiglerXI, eller noget andet som De troer kunde være mig kiært, saa kan De Dispo[ne]re over 50 rdrXII som ieg kan lade Dem udbetale naar De er paa Hiemreisen fra Rom. Reiser De til Neapel inden De forlader Italien da lad mig det vide førinden De reiser. Bliver De endnu noget i Rom saa ønskede ieg en Copie i Marmor af Raphaels BysteXIII som staar i Rotonda – og en i Marmor af HomerusXIV. ieg mener at, for 30 til 40 rdr kan man der have dem, efter hvad man tilforn betalte for sligt, men ieg vilde helst have dem som TermerXV, lig Rothes Buste. Dersom Landeveyen skulde blive nogenlunde sickerXVI kunde Bøgerne sendes i en Kasse over Land til Arnold HornemanXVII i Lÿbek. naar Kassen bliver sendt til Giuseppe GummerXVIII i Bolzano, saa besørger han den til Lÿbek.
skriv mig nu snart til, og lad mig vide hvordan De lever, hvorlænge De endnu bliver i Rom, og om ieg faar de 3 Deele ieg mangler af Museum Pio Clementino, og hvad De forresten veed og kan.
Vil De hilse ZoegaXIX fra mig og sige ham om faa Dage skal ieg sende ham PengeXX. Vær nu min Ven som ieg altid skal være Derres, da ingen skal glæde sig mere over den Fremgang De har og vil giøre i Konsten end Derres ærlige Ven Abildgaard

Oversættelse af dokument

Copenhagen, December 3rd 1799.

I have received your letter of 12th October with pleasure as I see from it that you are still altogether well.
The crate has finally arrived, but it was expensive, from Rome to Leghorn it cost 62 rdr [rix-dollar] which is an obvious fraud. All the contents were undamaged. Your group, which I have at my place, is beautiful and does you credit. The large head of Bacchus looks decorative in my rooms. Not only I, but everybody who sees the bust of Rothe is very pleased with it, which makes me rather happy, for good reasons I have not exhibited it at the Academy, but anyone who has wanted to see it has had to come to my place. You will now see from the letter from the Academy of Fine Arts that we have extended your scholarship again for two more years, and when you so wish, a year’s pension will be paid to you in advance. Thus you are your own master and you can travel or stay as you choose. This has not come about without discussion. Dear friend, you offer me a favour before you leave Rome. Will you please procure for me the 3rd, 5th and 6th parts of Museo Pio Clementino, but do take care that they are complete. If you could manage to get some preferably Greek medals, or some other objects, which you think I might cherish, you may have the disposal of 50 rdr, which I may pay to you when you are on your journey home from Rome. If you go to Naples before you leave Italy then let me know about it before you leave. If you will stay for some time in Rome, I wish a copy in marble of the bust of Raphael, which is in Rotonda – and one in marble of Homer. I think that you can get them for 30 to 40 rdr, according to what was formerly paid for such things, but I should prefer to have them as hermas, like the bust of Rothe. If the road proves reasonably safe, the books may be sent in a box overland to Arnold Horneman in Lubeck. If the box is sent to Giuseppe Gummer in Bolzano, he will forward it to Lubeck.
Do write to me soon, and let me know how your life is, how long you will still stay in Rome and whether I shall get the 3 parts I need of Museum Pio Clementino, and besides what you know and can tell me.
Please give my regards to Zoega and tell him that I shall send him money in a few days. Be my friend as I shall always be yours, as nobody shall be more pleased at the progress you make and shall still make in art than your true friend Abildgaard.


[Translated by Karen Husum]

Archival Reference

m1 1799, nr. 3.

Thiele

Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 146-147.

Subjects

Persons

Works

A752 Rafael, 1800, inv.nr. A752
A1 Bacchus og Ariadne, 1798, inv.nr. A1
A225 Tyge Rothe, 1797, inv.nr. A225
A751 Homer, 1799, inv.nr. A751

Commentaries

  1. Thorvaldsen’s letter dated 12.10.1799.

  2. According to Thiele I, p. 133, the crate actually arrived in Copenhagen at the end of 1798. Abildgaard had not been informed about this because he spent a long time in Jutland during the winter of 1798-99 and did not return until the early summer of 1799. Therefore, the crate was left at the Custom House in Copenhagen, and the contents, among them Bacchus and Ariadne, A1 were not shown to the Academy until 30.9.1799. See the related article about Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks in 1798 and 1802.

  3. Thorvaldsen’s plaster statuette Bacchus and Ariadne, A1, modelled in Rome 1798, see the Thorvaldsen Chronology.
    It was this statuette that Abildgaard persuaded the Academy to accept as Thorvaldsen’s reception piece on 6.5.1805, see the Thorvaldsen Chronology.

  4. Da Bacchus og Ariadne, A1, var hjemsendt som prøve på Thorvaldsens duelighed, må den have været Kunstakademiets ejendom. Med udtrykket at tilegne sig mener Abildgaard formentlig kun, at han har stillet statuetten op i sin bolig på Charlottenborg uden egentlig at have overtaget ejendomsretten til den.
    Han kan også have ment, at han dedikerede statuetten til sig selv.
    Jf. Ordbog over det danske Sprog.

  5. I.e. a bust of Bacchus in large size, i.e. larger than life, probably executed as an exercise after an antique original. The material of the bust is uncertain – the copy may have been in marble, as Th. Oppermann: Thorvaldsen, Copenhagen 1927, vol. II, p. 36 supposes, while Else Kai Sass: Thorvaldsens Portrætbuster, Copenhagen 1963-65, vol. I, p. 52 makes the more likely assumption that it was a modelled copy in plaster.
    It is not known which Bacchus head Thorvaldsen copied, but it might have been a copy of the bust of Antinous as Bacchus, which is in the collections of the Vatican, and also in Thorvaldsen’s collection of casts, L165, and in the collection of casts of the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, inv.nr. KG 1086.
    However, it might also be a copy of the large Bacchus head in Museo Capitolino in Rome, of which there is also a cast in Thorvaldsens Museum, L113. In the early 1800s, however, this very feminine Bacchus head was thought to represent Ariadne, cf. L. Müller: Fortegnelse over Gips-Afstøbningerne i Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen 1850, p. 16, a mistaken belief that Thorvaldsen apparently shared. In the documents regarding Theodor von der Ropp’s commission of this copy, Thorvaldsen consistently refers to the Bacchus head as Ariadne, see the related article about Ropp’s Commission 1804-05.


    It is unlikely that the Bacchus head is an orginal work by Thorvaldsen since he does not bother to mention it in his letter to Abildgaard dated 30.6.1798, in which he lists the works he is sending to Copenhagen. Moreover, the Bacchus head was not exhibited at the Academy of Fine Arts unlike the “original” work that Thorvaldsen sent home in 1798, viz. Bacchus and Ariadne, A1, see the letter from the Academy dated 3.12.1799.
    Here, it is also mentioned that no works by Thorvaldsen in marble were exhibited at the Academy, which suggests that the Bacchus Head is unlikely to have been executed in marble. In that case, Abildgaard would probably have exhibited it.

  6. Thorvaldsen’s marble bust of Tyge Rothe, A225.

  7. It is uncertain what good reasons Abildgaard refers to here, but it has been suggested that he was worried that the idiom of the bust – the missing wig and the strict classical style – was too advanced for the professors of the Academy; and that Thorvaldsen therefore might risk not having his scholarship prolonged, see Else Kai Sass: Thorvaldsens Portrætbuster, Copenhagen 1963-65, vol. I, p. 40-41.
    Thiele I, p. 140-141 mentions the matter but also gives no explanation why the bust of Tyge Rothe was not exhibited at the Academy.

  8. Letter dated 3.12.1799 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen to Thorvaldsen.

  9. I.e. discussions in the Academy of Fine Arts, whose fellows made decisions about Thorvaldsen’s scholarship. The question concerning Thorvaldsen’s right to decide when he was going to return to Denmark was delicate. The holders of the academy scholarships abroad were formally subjects of the absolute monarch / their native land, and therefore they were not allowed to remain abroad beyond the duration of their scholarship. The purpose of the study abroad was that the artists were to return to the King’s service. Abildgaard’s view that Thorvaldsen was “his own master”, and that it was up to him to decide whether he was going to return or not, would naturally cause “discussion”.
    Regarding this subject, see Thorvaldsen’s Continuance in Rome 1803-1804.
    Abildgaard’s patronage of Thorvaldsen generally met with opposition among the fellows of the Academy of Fine Arts, e.g. Abildgaard’s actions through which Thorvaldsen became a member of the Academy and a professor on the same day in 1805 aroused criticism, see e.g. letter dated 18.6.1805 from C.F. Stanley to C.F.F. Stanley.

  10. Three volumes of the catalogue of the part of the Vatican collections in the so-called Museo Pio-Clementino, established by 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).
    See Abildgaard’s note about these volumes in the letter dated 12.10.1799 from Thorvaldsen to Abildgaard and Thorvaldsen’s comment on this in the letter dated 4.4.1800.
    In the end, Thorvaldsen bought the catalogues and sent them to Copenhagen in 1802. Some years later, Thorvaldsen gave the catalogues to the Academy even though they had cost him 80 scudi, see the letter dated 18.6.1806.

  11. See Abildgaard’s note about these medals in the letter dated 12.10.1799 from Thorvaldsen to Abildgaard.
    It is not known whether Thorvaldsen actually bought any medals for his teacher.

  12. The same amount for the purchase of various items is mentioned by Abildgaard in a note he wrote on the letter dated 12.10.1799 from Thorvaldsen.

  13. In 1674, a bust of Raphael, executed by the sculptor Pietro Paolo Baldini (also known as Naldini, ca. 1605-1650), was placed on Raphael’s tomb in the Pantheon, also known as la Rotonda. Together with the other busts in the Pantheon, the bust was moved to the Capitol in 1820, and the collection was named La Protomoteca Capitolina, the Capitoline portrait galleri. See Cataloghi dei Musei comunali di Roma, V, La Protomoteca Capitolina, Rome 1955, p. 11-12, 80.
    Thorvaldsen fulfilled Abildgaard’s wish and executed a relatively free copy of Baldini’s bust in marble, A752. It was acquired by Thorvaldsens Museum at the auction in 1850 after Abildgaard’s widow.

  14. In his letter dated 12.10.1799 to the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, Thorvaldsen had announced that he was sending a marble bust of Homer to Copenhagen.
    The bust was presented to Abildgaard as a gift from Thorvaldsen to his teacher (see letter dated 28.7.1805 to Abildgaard). The bust is now in Thorvaldsens Museum, A751, acquired in the auction in 1850 after Abildgaard’s widow.
    The marble bust is a free copy in Hermæan form after an antique bust of Homer in the Museo Nazionale in Naples, cf. two casts of the bust in Thorvaldsen’s collection of casts, L137 and L138.

  15. Dvs. i hermeform.

  16. Transportation by land in war-torn Europe remained unsafe in the following years.
    Thorvaldsen sent books and artworks to Copenhagen by sea, see Transpotation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802.

  17. This must be Arnold Hornemann (17xx-1810) of the commercial house of Müller and Hornemann in Lübeck. (See Stefan Gorissen, Vom Handelshaus zum Unternehmen, Bielefeldt 2002, p. 251.)
    Abildgaard mentions Horneman again in his letter dated 4.10.1801 to Thorvaldsen.

  18. Gummer’s identity is unknown, but he is probably a shipping agent/merchant.
    There is a vicolo Gummer in Bolzano, and a village nearby is also called Gummer, so the name clearly has a local connection.
    Abildgaard mentions Gummer again in his letter dated 4.10.1801 to Thorvaldsen.

  19. The Danish archaeologist Georg Zoëga.

  20. This is probably the fee that Georg Zoëga received for his regular reports to the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen on the Arts in Rome, see e.g. the letter of transfer dated 5.3.1800 from Lawaetz to Zoëga.
    In December 1799, Zoëga was short of money because of postal delays. In a letter dated 25.1.1800 to Friederike Brun, it appears that he had not yet received money from the Academy; according to this letter he was going to make up a list for the Academy of all the artists living in Rome. It was his friend, Friedrich Münter, who helped Zoëga financially, see Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker: Zoega’s Leben, (Stuttgart & Tübingen 1819), reprinted Halle 1912-13, vol. II, p. 123-130.
    Zoëga had sent reports back to Denmark since 1790. The reports 1790-1798 were printed in the periodical Minerva, 1798-99. In a letter dated 10.10.1799 from Zoëga to Friedrich Münter, it appears that there had been a break in the reports, but later they were resumed for a short time. These last reports after 1798 are not known, see K. Friis Johansen: ‘Georg Zoega i Rom’, in: Louis Bobé (ed.): Rom og Danmark gennem Tiderne, Copenhagen 1935, vol. I, p. 240-241.

Last updated 22.01.2018