22.4.1801

Sender

Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location

Rom

Information on sender

Utydeligt aftryk af Thorvaldsens segl i rødt lak. Se afbildningen af seglet nederst på Arkivets sider.

Recipient

Kunstakademiet, København

Recipient’s Location

København

Information on recipient

Udskrift: A / L’Academie Royale de / Peinture Sculpture et / Architectur à / Copenhague / Franco TrentoI.
Tilskrift: Til Det Kongelige Maler Billedhugger og Bygnings Academie

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.

Abstract

Thorvaldsen reports that the two crates with artworks bound for the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts are stuck in Leghorn, awaiting their further shipment. 
He has completed the clay model for Jason with the Golden Fleece, A52, but cannot afford to make a plaster cast. The statue has won him recognition among his fellow artists. 
At present, he is working on a sculpture group but does not give any details about the work.

Document

Rom d: 22de. April 1801.

Underdanigst Pro MemoriaII

Jeg har paa nyeIII den ære at tilskrive det Kongelige Academie, men er endnu ikke saa lykkelig at kunde mælde at de arbeider som ieg i overenstemmelse med min PligtIV her udførte er underveis til Kiøbenhavn for at kunde fremstillis for Samme, som Beviis paa min Fliid og Fremgang i Konsten. De to Kasser, som ieg for længere end et Aar siden afsendte til Livorno ligger der endnu, saasom ingen beqvem leilighedV der har viist sig til at indskibe dem: og denne forhalelse har beveget mig at opsette Afsendelsen af mine senere ArbeiderVI om hvilke ieg i mit foregaaende BrevVII til Academiet ommældte, indtil roligere Tiider giver Haab om at see dem befordrede til deres Bestemmelse. Imidlertiid smigrer ieg mig at Academiet ikke har nogen Tvivl om min Fliid saasom ieg uafladeligen arbeider for saa meget som muligt at fuldkomme migVIII i Konsten. Jeg har modellert en staaende Figur overIX naturlig Størrelse forestillende Jason med det gyldne FliisX, som har havt den Lykke at finde Konst[n]ernes BifaldXI. Jeg agtede at lade den forme, men fand Bekostninger derved afskrækkende, saasom man derfor forlandte 36 scudiXII, hvilke i disse overmaade Dyre Tider meget vilde have inkommoderet mig, og ieg om saa meget mindre troede at kunde anvende derpaa, da ingen Udsigter er til at afsende noget til Kiøbenhavn.
Jeg er nu beskæftiget med en GruppeXIII i naturlig Størrelse, om hvilken ieg undlader at tale, indtil ieg faaer den færdig, og da kan bedømme om den fortiener indsendt. Igentagende mit Løfte at stræbe med al mulig Fliid at giøre den nyttigste Anvendelse af min Tiid, som mine Evner tillade, anbefaler ieg mig Det Kongelige Academies vedvarende Bevaagenhed.

Underdanigst
B. Thorvaldsen

Oversættelse af dokument

Rome, April 22nd 1801

Most humbly Pro Memoria,

Again I have the honour to write to the Academy but am still not so happy as to be able to inform you that the works, which in agreement with my duty I made here, are on their way to Copenhagen in order to be presented to the same as proof of my diligence and progress in art. The two crates which I sent to Leghorn more than a year ago are still there, seeing that no convenient opportunity has turned up to ship them: and this delay has moved me to postpone shipping my later works which I informed about in my previous letter to the Academy, until more quiet times will give hope about seeing them shipped to their destination. In the meantime I indulge in the Academy’s having no doubt about my diligence seeing that I work incessantly to become as perfect as possible in art. I have modelled a standing figure of full size representing Jason with the golden fleece, which has had the good fortune to win the approval of the artists. I intended to have it made but found expenses by it discouraging as they demanded 36 scudi for it, which in these rather expensive times would have incommoded me greatly, and I thought I could spend so much less on that, as there is no prospect of shipping anything to Copenhagen.
Now I am occupied with a life-size group, of which I refrain from speaking, until I have finished it and then can judge whether it deserves to be submitted.
Repeating my promise with all possible diligence to strive to make the most useful application of my time as of my abilities I recommend myself to the continued favour of the Academy.

Most humbly,
B. Thorvaldsen



[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

Regarding receipt of this letter, the journal of the Academy of Fine Arts of 30.6.1801 reads: “Since the last assembly, a letter has arrived from the pensioner Thorvaldsen, dated Rome the 22nd of April, in which he announces to the Academy that he has made a full-size figure representing Jason, but which he has not been able to have cast for lack of funds. He also writes that he is working on a group about which he will inform the Academy when it is done.”

Contrary to Thorvaldsen’s other reports to the Academy of Fine Arts, this letter is in the archives of Thorvaldsen’s Museum and not in the National Archives. The letter was donated to the museum in 1874 by the grandchild of the Academy secretary, the miniature painter Cornelius Høyer, who must have appropriated the letter so that it was not filed in the usual way, see m28, nr. 2.
For this reason, Thiele did not know of the original letter in 1851 – when the first volume of his biography of Thorvaldsen was published. He writes (Thiele I, p. 165) that the letter is only known “in excerpts in the journal of the Academy”, which is repeated in Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum 2003, p. 12.

Document Type

Færdigt egenhændigt dokument

Archival Reference

m28, nr. 1

Thiele

Omtalt hos Thiele I, p. 165.

Subjects

Works

A52 Jason med det gyldne skind, 1802-1803, inv.nr. A52
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

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. 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’s last report to the Academy of Fine Arts was from24.10.1800.
    According to the instructions of the Academy of Fine Arts of 23.8.1796, Thorvaldsen was to report on his activities every six months.

  4. According to the instructions to Thorvaldsen from the Academy of Fine Arts of 23.8.1796, he was to “… send samples of his progress … each year of his stay abroad …”
    In the spring of 1800 Thorvaldsen sent two crates to Leghorn as he mentions below. They contained, among other things, four works: two plaster copies of the head and the whole figure of Pollux, A54, one of the so-called Dioscuri; also two marble busts, one of Homer, A751, and the other of A.P. Bernstorff (Brahetrolleborg, original model, A208).
    See the related article about Transportation of Crates.

  5. There was no shipping opportunity until almost a year later, see the related article Transportation of Crates. Thorvaldsen’s comment on the difficulties of shipping is partly owing to information he had received from the Danish consul at Leghorn, J.C. Ulrich, i. e. in letter of 16.3.1801.
    The difficulties of having the crates sent off on board a Danish ship had increased in the spring of 1801 because of the state of war between England and Denmark, which was precisely about free transport of goods by sea.

  6. I.e. my latest works; in letter of 24.10.1800 mentioned the following works: the Goddess of Peace (later destroyed, see Lost Works), three marble busts of Cicero, A760 or A761, Agrippa, A759 and Raphael, A752, besides Jason with the Golden Fleece, A52, mentioned below.

  7. Thorvaldsen’s report of 24.10.1800 to the Academy of Fine Arts.

  8. It may be passages like this that Thorvaldsen himself was referring to when in 1818, in his biography, he talked about his reports to the Academy of Fine Arts to the historian Estrup, who writes: “He did not forget to send the requested report every six months: it always sounded favourable; he wrote it himself.”

  9. Cf. Ordbog over det danske Sprog, no. 2.6, in the sense of “based on”; so here it means a statue of the same size as the human body. In this connection, then, “over” does not mean more or larger than the human body, which a modern reading might lead one to believe. That this reading must be the correct one is supported partly by the entry in the journal of the Academy on receipt of the letter (see the general commentary below), and partly by Thorvaldsen’s other references to this version of Jason. See the related article about Jason and Hope’s Commission for a complete account of the matter.

  10. The clay model for Thorvaldsen’s statue Jason with the Golden Fleece, A52, in its first version, which he destroyed in the spring of 1802 because he could not afford to cast it in plaster, see Thiele I, p. 165 and 172.
    Regarding the making of Jason, see the related article.
    Ordet Fliis, properly spelt vlies, from Dutch means sheepskin, see Ordbog over det danske Sprog.

  11. As far as we know, there is no written evidence of Jason’s success as early in the history of the work as 1801, so the identity of the artists who praised Thorvaldsen’s statue is uncertain.
    See also the related article about Jason and Hope’s Commission.

  12. 36 scudi corresponded to almost double the amount in rix-dollars, and by way of comparison it may be mentioned that Thorvaldsen’s scholarship was 400 rix-dollars annually. The casting of the clay model for Jason would then have amounted to living expenses for around two months.
    In 1801 the living costs in Rome were high as Thorvaldsen writes below, which he also mentions in his letter of 4.4.1800 to Abildgaard: “… for all as to victuals is four times more expensive than it has ever been …” Cf. also Thiele I, p. 164.
    See also the related article about the Monetary Units of that time.

  13. It is uncertain what group Thorvaldsen is referring to here. However, Thiele I, p. 165 suggests either Mars and Venus or, more likely, Achilles and Penthesilea, which today exists in a smaller sketch, A777. Thiele I, p. 166 writes: “Whatever the group may have represented, it seems certain that it never got any further than the sketch.” We have no other evidence to contradict this claim though Thorvaldsen here writes that the work is intended to be executed / is being executed “in full size”.
    He may, however, have made the sculpture group in full size but later destroyed the clay model because he was dissatisfied with it, or because he did not have the money to have it cast in plaster as was the case with Jason, cf. above.

Last updated 20.05.2019