Nicolai Abildgaard

Sender’s Location


Information on sender

Hjerteformet sort stempel med et svært læseligt ord: “IN..” og tallet “41”; og rødt laksegl.


Bertel Thorvaldsen

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Den ene halvdel af papiret er skåret fra og overført til samlingen af Thorvaldsens tegninger, C25. Her findes følgende udskrift: A Monsieur / Monsieur Thorvaldsen / Sculpteur Pensionné de S[a].M[ajesté]. le Roi/ de Dannemarck / fr TrentoI / Rome

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.
Thiele I, p. 179 daterer brevet til 1802 på grund af en fejllæsning af årstallet, som uden tvivl skal læses som 1801.


Abildgaard informs Thorvaldsen that the last instalment of his travelling grant has been sent to him, so he should then begin his journey back to Denmark unless he has obtained work that will keep him in Rome. 
Abildgaard asks Thorvaldsen to purchase some catalogues and send them to Copenhagen. He relates some news, e.g. that Thorvaldsen’s friend, the architect C.F.F. Stanley, is going to Italy.


Kiøbenhavn d. 4de Oct. 1801.

Kiære Ven! ieg kan icke unlade at melde Dem, at Academiet har ladet Dem udbetale Deres 6te Aars PensionII med 400rdr som efter al formodning er avgaaenIII med forrige Post og da disse 400rdr er alt hvad De for tiden kan vente, da bliver det vel nødvendigt at De med dem begiver Dem paa hiemreisen, ifald De icke har noget arbeide, hvorved De kan fortiene noget. imidlertid skriver De strax til Academiet, for at underrette samme om De begiver Dem paa hiemreisen eller eyIV, De kan skrive uden paa Brevet til mig, og da kan De lægge en aaben Sedel i samme til mig hvori De skriver hvad alle icke bør videV. vil De kiøbe mig 3de 5te og 6te Tome af Museo Pio ClementinoVI, og sende den over land til Lybek med fragt vognene. forhen gik slige ting til Bolzano til Giuseppe GummerVII, om han endnu lever, og diregte derfra med de ordinære Fragt Vogne til Lybek til Arndholdt HornemannVIII. Hvad De har udlagt kan ieg lade Dem udbetale paa Hiemreisen, paa hvilket sted De selv vil, som De underretter mig om, saasnart ieg faar at vide naar De kan ventes hiem, vil ieg see om ieg kunde opholde[?] lidt Arbeide til Dem, og i øvrigt giøre hvad ieg kan, som De vel veed.
vil De sige Her ZoegaIX, at ieg i foraaret adskillige gange sendte Penge 50r til RybergX men de lod mig svare at da al Handel var i uorden kunde de icke modtage noget, og da ieg fik brev fra ham med forrige Post desangaaende saa skal ieg lade hæve de 50r og sende ham 100r som ham kommer tilgode. Her er alting ved det gamle, vore saakaldte Billedhuggere, enskiøndt de blot giør LigsteneXI vil gierne Leve evindelig om det kun lod sig giøre. Hvad De endnu har liggende i LivornoXII, og hvad De end videre maatte sende derhen for at føres hertil, maa De give vedkommende Ordre, icke at sende med andre end Danske Skibe, da det ellers vil koste Dem alt for meget i fragt.
Vores Minister BurkeXIII, som De kar kiendt i Neapel er reist her fra i forrige Uge for at gaa til Madridt, men han reiser først til Paris, hvor han agter at opholde sig nogle Maaneder og derfra reiser han til Florens hvor ieg formoder han vil indtræffe først i tilkommende Aar, dette har ieg icke villet unlade at underrette Dem om, da ieg formoder, om han kan være Dem til nogen tieneste, vil han giøre noget for min skyld. –
Deres FaderXIV var hos mig for kort siden og ieg formoder han lever vel. den unge StanleyXV kommer til at reise til foraaret, hvad der vil blive af ham, kommer an derpaa.
Lev nu vel min gode Ven og lad mig snart vide naar ieg kan vente Dem, saa er ieg nu som altid Deres oprigtige Ven Abildgaard

Oversættelse af dokument

Copenhagen, October 4th 1801

Dear friend, I must inform you that the Royal Academy of Fine Arts has paid out your 6th year’s pension of 400 rdr, which I have reason to believe was sent by the previous mail and as this 400 rdr is all you can expect for the time being, it is probably necessary that you with this start your journey home, if you have no work, from which you can earn something. However, you must immediately write to the Academy to inform this whether you start your home journey or not. You may address the letter to me, and you may insert an open note for me in the same, in which you write what is not for everybody to know. Please buy for me the 3rd, the 5th, and the 6th tomes of Museo Pio Clementino, and send them overland to Lubeck by carriers. Formerly such things went to Bolzano to Giuseppe Gummer, if he is still alive, and straight from him by the normal carriers to Lubeck to Arndholdt Hornemann. What you have laid out I can pay you on your journey home, which place you want it, which you will inform me about. As soon as I get to know when we can expect you home, I shall see if I can keep[?] some work for you and besides do what I am able to, as you well know.
Will you please tell Mr. Zoega that in spring I several times forwarded money 50r to Ryberg, but they informed me that as all trade was disorganized, they could not receive anything, and as I received a letter from him by the last mail about this I shall draw the 50 r and send him a 100, which is due to him. Here everything is as before, our so-called sculptors even though they make only tombstones would like to live for ever, if that was possible. You must give the person concerned orders that what you still have in Leghorn and what you may further send there in order to be taken to this place must only be sent by Danish vessels, as otherwise the freight will cost you far too much.
Burke, our minister, whom you have met in Naples left from here last week to go to Madrid, but he first goes to Paris where he intends to stay for a couple of months and from there he will go to Florence where I presume he will be at the beginning of next year. Have wanted to inform you of this as I presume that if he can be of any service to you, he will do something for my sake. –
Your father came to me a short while ago and I think he is well. Young Stanley will leave in spring, what will become of him, depends on this.
Take care of yourself, my dear friend and let me soon know when I can expect you, I am as always your true friend, Abildgaard

[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

One half of the paper has been cut off and transferred to the collection of Thorvaldsen’s drawings, Hercules (?) Carrying a Child, C25.

Archival Reference

m1 1802, nr. 5


Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 179-180 (Thiele anfører fejlagtigt årstallet til 1802).




  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. This is also mentioned in the letter dated 4.10.1801 from Gotskalk Thorvaldsen. This last part of Thorvaldsen’s travelling scholarship was meant for the journey home, as Abildgaard suggests below. See also letter dated 3.12.1799 from the Academy of Fine Arts to Thorvaldsen and his answer dated 4.4.1800, in which it was determined that the last part of the scholarship was to be used for the journey home.

  3. Thorvaldsen’s scholarship was transferred to the Roman banker Domenico Lavaggi.

  4. On 20.3.1802, Thorvaldsen wrote to the Academy of Fine Arts and informed them that he planned to return to Denmark during the summer of 1802. As is well known, this did not happen because of Thomas Hope’s Commission of Jason, A52, in marble in the spring of 1803.

  5. In making this conspiratorial remark, Abildgaard clearly wanted to send his pupil an indication of his openness with regard to the delicate question of the possibility of his continuance abroad, see more about this in the related article on this subject.

  6. 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).
    In two letters dated 4.4.1800 and 24.10.1800, Thorvaldsen had written that he could not afford to buy the three volumes. Here, Abildgaard has obviously forgotten this or chosen to ignore it.
    In the end, however, Thorvaldsen bought the catalogues and sent them to Copenhagen by ship from Leghorn, which he told Abildgaard in his answer dated 20.3.1802. See also the related article about Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks 1798 and 1802.

  7. 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 mentioned Gummer in a previous letter dated 3.12.1799 to Thorvaldsen.

  8. 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 in a previous letter dated 3.12.1799 to Thorvaldsen.

  9. Thorvaldsen’s friend, the Danish archaeologist Georg Zoëga.

  10. This is a reference to the commercial house of Ryberg & Co., founded by the merchant Niels Ryberg in 1789.
    The payment to Zoëga is probably the fee he received for his regular reports to the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen on the Arts in Rome. The missing fee must have annoyed Zoëga, whose financial circumstances were not good.
    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.
    Regarding the payment of an earlier fee, see the letter dated 5.3.1800.

  11. Abildgaard’s slightly patronizing remark is probably aimed at his colleagues, the professors of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1801, they were: Johannes Wiedewelt, C.F. Stanley, and Andreas Weidenhaupt, who were all born in the 1730s and only barely survived as sculptors mostly by producing sepulchral monuments.

  12. I.e. the crates that Thorvaldsen regularly sent home to the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen with, among other things, works of art for evaluation. At this time, two crates had been waiting to be sent on from Leghorn since the spring of 1800.
    Regarding these shipments, see the related article about Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artsworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802.

  13. The Danish diplomat/minister of Irish descent, Count Edmund Bourke.
    As appears below, Thorvaldsen had met Bourke in Naples in 1797, see the Thorvaldsen Chronology.

  14. Gotskalk Thorvaldsen mentions his visit to Abildgaard in his letter dated 4.10.1801, the same date as this letter from Abildgaard. Perhaps Gotskalk Thorvaldsen visited Abildgaard the same day, “a short while ago”, as the painter writes.

  15. Thorvaldsen’s good friend, the Danish architect C.F.F. Stanley. In 1795, he had won the large gold medal of the Academy of Fine Arts, and in 1800, he won the large travelling scholarship in competition with three other architects. Abildgaard mentions that the competition is going to take place in his letter dated 21.7.1800.
    However, Stanley did not leave until August 1802, see receipt dated 3.8.1802 from Hinrich Thomsen to C.F.F. Stanley.

Last updated 15.01.2018