21.7.1800

Sender

Nicolai Abildgaard

Sender’s Location

København

Information on sender

Lakstempel med våbenskjold.

Recipient

Bertel Thorvaldsen

Recipient’s Location

Rom

Information on recipient

Udskrift: à Monsieur / Monsieur Thorvaldsen / Sculpteur, Pensionér de S. M. le Roi de / Dannemarck. / à Rome / Fr. TrentoI / chez Mr LavaggiII

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.

Abstract

Abildgaard relates that some people in Copenhagen have accused Thorvaldsen of being lazy in Rome, but Abildgaard assures him of his full support.
 Thorvaldsen is sending two crates containing artworks etc. to Copenhagen. Due to the high costs of transportation Abildgaard requests that the crates should be sent in one the ships of the Royal Navy. He will try to sell the two busts (A.P. Bernstorff, cf. A208, and Homer, A751) in the crates. The bust of Tyge Rothe, A225 is still in Abildgaard’s possession. He asks Thorvaldsen to buy some books and tells him to inform Georg Zoëga that his fee from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts is on its way.
 Finally, some news about the professors at the Academy and about five architects competing for a travelling grant.

Document

København d. 21de Juli 1800

Kiære Ven!
Ieg burde for længe siden have besvaret Deres Skrivelse af 4de AprilIII dette Aar, og ieg begyndte derpaa den 4de Mai og det blev henlagt til nu. Overmaade kiært er det mig at erfare De arbeider og er flittig, her er De bleven beskyldt for det modsatte, hvortil en Stambog, som ieg icke erindrer hvem tilhørte har givet nogen anledningIV. Vær De ganske rolig, ieg har engang voren saa hældig at kunde biedrage noget til Deres Vel, og ieg slipper siældent halvgiort arbeide, hvad ieg kan giøre for Dem kan De lide paa skal icke blive forsømt.
ieg seer af Deres Brev, at De har sendt 2de KasserV under min Adresse, havde ieg dem kun, men for alting om det endnu er tiid, da see om de kunde komme hertil med et af vores Krigs-Skibe, da de allene vil koste mere end De forestiller Dem. Capitain BergerVI som komanderer Fregatten Triton har lovet mig at modtage alt hvad der maate blive ham tilstillet med min Adresse, han bør nu efter al Formodning være i Midelhavet, da han er gaaen herfra sidst i Mai Maaned. Hvad de 2de Marmor BüsterVII angaar, da skal ieg giøre alt mueligt for at avsætte et af dem, men Dajon har gjort Bernstorffs BüsteVIII i Marmor for Landhuusholdnings SelskabetIX, Rothes Büste staaer endnu hos mig, ieg har ladet giøre et Postament dertil, Hans SønX gav det gierne bort, naar her var et offentlig anstændigt sted hvor det kunde plaseres. at De icke har Penge til at giøre udlæg af for mig, indseer ieg alt for vel, og det har eller icke voren min mening, lad mig vide 3 a 4 Maaneder forinden De forlader Rom, saa skal ieg vel besørge Dem det fornødne tilsendt, eller moske før, ieg har nu ladet komme nogle ting fra Paris, saa ieg fortiden maa puste lidt, men de tre Tomer af Museo Pio ClementinoXI, som ieg mangler skal ieg have, saa ønsker ieg og at beholde den Samling af Raphaels TapeterXII der fandtes i Deres Kasse, kiøb Dem et andet Exemplar for min Regning, hvortil De skal faa Penge.
Vil De sige Her Zoega at ieg har besørget ham alt hans tilgode havendeXIII tilsendt, nemlig 100 rdr da ieg icke kunde faa nogen Kiøbmand til at modtage hans Penge forrige Aar, saa vilde ieg icke have dem, og nu ieg vilde hæve dem, kunde ieg icke faae dem udbetalt forinden forrige Aars RegnskabXIV var efterset, som varede til for kort siden. imidlertid er denne Sag nu bragt i Orden, og Zoega har faaen hvad ham tilkommer, vil De tacke ham fra mig for den Bog han har lagt i Deres Kasse til mig.
GianelliXV er ansat ved MyntenXVI med 600 rdr aarlig Gage, som fornøyer mig, i øvrigt er alt ved det gamle, Wiedewelt synes snart at vilde begive sig paa reisen til hine BoeligerXVII, og WeidenhauptXVIII er saa forædt og Døv, saa han icke duer til noget mere, om han nogensinde har voret duelig. JuelXIX, som er Directeur, maler uophørlig Portrætter, han er den eneste der har noget at giøre. ieg har icke maletXX siden De saa mig sidst. nu Concurerer 5 ArchitecterXXI som har vunden den store Præmie, om hvem af dem der skal reise og det skal afgiøres sidst i October Maaned, da de til den tid skal være færdige.
Lev nu vel min gode Ven, og lad mig snart vide at De er glad og lyckelig

ganske Deres
Nic: Abildgaard

Oversættelse af dokument

Copenhagen, July 21st 1800

Dear friend,
I should long ago have answered your letter of April 4th this year, and I started on it on May 4th and it got put away until now. I am extremely happy to learn that you are working and are working hard, here you have been accused of the reverse, to which an album has given rise, I do not remember to whom it belonged. You need not worry, I have been so fortunate to be able to contribute to your welfare and I rarely leave half-finished work, you may trust that I shall not fail to do what I can for you.
I see from your letter that you have sent two crates to my address, if only I had them here, but if there is still time, then see if they could come here by one of our naval vessels, as they alone would cost more than you can imagine. Captain Berger who commands the frigate Triton has promised me to accept all that might be sent to him with my address on, he is now supposed to be in the Mediterranean, as he left from here late in the month of May. Regarding the two busts in marble, I shall do what I possibly can to dispose of one of them. However, Dajon has executed a bust of Bernstorff in marble for the agricultural society. The bust of Rothe is still at my place, I have had a pedestal made for it. His son would willingly give it away if only a public, decent place could be found, where it could be placed. I do realize that you have no money buy things for me, and this has not been my intention. Please let me know 3 to 4 months before you leave Rome, then I shall see to it that the necessary means are sent to you, or perhaps earlier. I have now had some things sent from Paris, so for the time being I must take a breather. But the three tomes of Museo Pio Clementino, which I lack, I must have and then I wish to keep the collection of Raphel’s Tapestries, which was in your crate, buy another copy at my expense, for which you shall get money.
Please tell Mr. Zoëga that I have managed to send the amount due to him, namely 100 rdr [rix-dollar]. As I could find no tradesman to receive his money last year, I did not want it, and now when I wanted to draw it, I could not have it paid out until last year’s accounts had been checked, which lasted until a short while ago. However, this matter has now been put right, and Zoega has got what he is entitled to. Please thank him from me for the book he has placed in your crate for me.
Gianelli is now employed at the Royal Mint with an annual salary of 600 rdr, which pleases me. Besides, everything is as before, Wiedewelt seems close to leaving us, and Weidenhaupt is so surfeited and deaf that he is no good for anything, if he ever was. Juel, who is director, continuously paints portraits, he is the only one who has something to do. I have not painted anything since you last saw me. For the time being 5 architects who have been awarded the gold medal compete for which of them is to go abroad and this is to be decided in late October as they must have finished by then.
Take care of yourself, my dear friend, and let me know soon that you are well and happy

Yours truly,
Nic. Abildgaard


[Translated by Karen Husum]

Archival Reference

m1 1800, nr. 3

Thiele

Hovedparten gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 155-156.

Subjects

Persons

Works

A225 Tyge Rothe, 1797, inv.nr. A225
A208 A.P. Bernstorff, 1797, inv.nr. A208
A751 Homer, 1799, inv.nr. A751

Commentaries

  1. Dvs. Franco Trento, hvilket ville sige, at portoen var betalt indtil grænsebyen Trento beliggende i provinsen Trentino i det nuværende Norditalien syd for Brennerpasset.

  2. The Roman banker Domenico Lavaggi.

  3. Letter dated 4.4.1800 from Thorvaldsen to Abildgaard.

  4. During his visit to Thorvaldsen in Rome in 1818, the historian H.F.J. Estrup collected information for a biography of the sculptor. Here Estrup reports a story which seems to be related to Abildgaard’s statement about Thorvaldsen’s lack of diligence: “A foreign traveller, who he [Thorvaldsen] thinks is the Swede Åckerbladt, told Abildgaard that Thorvaldsen did nothing in Rome and thus earned him a reprimande.”
    Åckerbladt is identical with the Swedish diplomat and orientalist Johan David Åkerblad. He was in Rome in 1798-99, and here he made a list of artists in Rome, which says about Thorvaldsen: “Thorwaldsen Danese fa niente”.
    The album mentioned is not known, but Åkerblad might have seen an album with a motif by Thorvaldsen, which was so insipid that it may have aroused criticism of Thorvaldsen’s efforts.
    Thorvaldsen responded indignantly to the accusation in a letter dated 24.10.1800 to Abildgaard: “It has given me much pain to see from your letter that I am accused of not being diligent and that an album has given cause for this as I often in haste and without inclination have dashed down something in various albums. This shall teach me hereafter to beware of drawing in albums when I do not feel up to doing it with diligence.”

  5. Thorvaldsen sent these two crates to Leghorn in the spring of 1800, but for various reasons they were not sent on until 1802 together with another three crates. See the related article about Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1800.

  6. The Danish captain Johan Hartvig Ernst von Berger.
    See also the correspondence between Thorvaldsen and Berger and the letter dated 24.10.1800 from Thorvaldsen to Abildgaard.

  7. Thorvaldsen’s marble busts of A.P. Bernstorff (Brahetrolleborg, original plaster A208), and Homer, A751, which Thorvaldsen had asked Abildgaard to try to sell in his previous letter dated 4.4.1800.
    The busts, however, did not reach Denmark until the end of 1802, and Abildgaard did not get them until about a year later, at the beginning of 1804, cf. the related article Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1800.

  8. The Danish sculptor Nicolai Dajon’s bust of A.P. Bernstorff is in the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Palace, catalogue 1943, no 5125. This bust, however, does not come from the Agricultural Society but from the Royal Chartered Fire Insurance Company.

  9. The Royal Agricultural Society, which today is in the Danish Agricultural Museum at Gl. Estrup. According to the museum (2005), they have no bust of Bernstorff by Dajon.
    The Agricultural Society apparently used to own a plaster cast of Thorvaldsen’s bust of A.P. Bernstorff from 1795, A856, but it no longer exists.

  10. Probably Tyge Rothe’s eldest son Andreas Bjørn Rothe.
    It may have come as a surprise to Thorvaldsen that the bust of Tyge Rothe, A225, was to be given away. Else Kai Sass writes: “He had regarded the bust as a commission from friends of the deceased and had therefore expected to receive a sum which would benefit his parents as soon as it was delivered. Now the subscribers seemed to have disappeared, and no one knew who was going to pay for the bust.” (Else Kai Sass: Thorvaldsens Portrætbuster, vol. I, Copenhagen 1963, p. 41). However, the son kept the bust and gave it to Thorvaldsen after his return to Denmark in1838 to be exhibited in his museum. See C.F. Wilckens: Træk af Thorvaldsens Konstner- og Omgangsliv, Copenhagen 1874, p. 47.

  11. In his letter dated 3.12.1799, Abildgaard asked for 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).

  12. >A folio with copperplate engravings of Raphael’s tapestries in the Vatican: Les celèbres Tapisseries de Raphaël d’Urbin au Vatican à Rome, gravées par Louis Sommerau, nos. 1-20, Rome 1780. In his answer dated “24.10.1800, Thorvaldsen asked Abildgaard to accept the engravings as a gift. Thorvaldsen must have acquired another copy as the work is found in Thorvaldsen’s library, M315.
    The fact that Thorvaldsen sent the work to Copenhagen is one of several indications that, at this time, he intended to return to Denmark when his scholarship expired.

  13. 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. He 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.
    See also the letter dated 3.12.1799 from Abildgaard.

  14. I.e. the accounts of the Academy of Fine Arts.

  15. The Danish medallist Peter Leonhard Gianelli.

  16. Dvs. Den Kongelige Mønt.

  17. I.e. to die
    In his last years, the sculptor Johannes Wiedewelt was ill and broken-down, and he also had financial difficulties. A couple of years later – 17.12.1802 – he drowned himself in Sortedam Lake in Copenhagen.

  18. The Danish sculptor Andreas Weidenhaupt.

  19. In 1795, the painter Jens Juel had been elected director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen for a period of two years. He was elected for another two years in 1799.

  20. Abildgaard’s great work, the decoration of the Great Hall of Christiansborg Palace, was destroyed in the fire of 1794, with the exception of 3 paintings. After this, he painted very little for some years, except some room decorations for Levetzau’s mansion at Amalienborg, to which Thorvaldsen also contributed, see letter dated 5.1.1795 from Thorvaldsen to the Academy of Fine Arts.
    However, Abildgaard resumed painting from 1801 in two of his major works, room decorations with four motifs from Terence (for his own rooms, 1801-04) and five motifs from Voltaire (for a private home on Nytorv in Copenhagen, 1803).

  21. The five architects, who had won the large gold medal since 1795, and who had to go through an extra competition for the travelling scholarship in 1800, were: Niels Dam, Johannes Georg Karlebye, Lorentz Kreiser (1773-1823), Christian Hornbech and C.F.F. Stanley. The latter won the scholarship. See F. Meldahl & P. Johansen: Det kongelige Akademi for skjønne Kunster, 1700-1904, Copenhagen 1904, supplement CXLIVf.
    Karlebye, however, died 12.7.1800 so that there were only four paticipants when the competition took place in the autumn of 1800.
    See also draft letter dated 22.4.1802 from Thorvaldsen to Gotskalk Thorvaldsen, in which Thorvaldsen mentions how pleased he is that Stanley won the scholarship.
    The competition is mentioned in Anne Lise Thygesen: ‘En akademistipendiat i Italien, arkitekten C.F.F. Stanley’, in: Architectura 2, Copenhagen 1980, p. 17.

Last updated 10.01.2018