Ultimo 1797

Sender

Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location

Rom

Recipient

Nicolai Abildgaard

Recipient’s Location

København

Information on recipient

Ingen udskrift.

Dating based on

Om dateringen, se den generelle kommentar.

Abstract

Thorvaldsen’s draft of his first report to Abildgaard on his activities in Rome. He has visited the sights of the city and made the acquaintance of artists and art-lovers in Rome. His marble-carving skills have improved with the busts of Tyge Rothe, A225, and A.P. Bernstorff (Brahetrolleborg). Due to the war, marble is scarce, and besides Thorvaldsen has been ill for some weeks.
Napoleon’s troops are stripping the large museums of art to be sent to Paris. Thorvaldsen has not seen any important new works of art during his stay in Rome apart from some series of engravings.

Document

Efter lang TavshedI giver ieg mig den Ære at tilskrive Jost[it]sraadenII. Det havde vel verret min skyldighed tiligerre at tilkiendegive Dem min vedblivende Hengivenhed og Taknemmellighed for den megen Godhed som De bestandigen har beviist mig. men overbevist om at De ikke tviller paa mit Sindelag har ieg ikke vildet Incommodere Dem med en skrivelse førend at ieg tillige kunde melde Dem noget som fra konstens side kunde intreserre Dem og give Dem efterretning om min fremgang i den Del af konsten til hvilken ieg har bestemt mig. Den lange Søe ReyseIII gav mig ikke megen Materrie til at skrive om. Ved mit korte ophold i NeapelIV saa ieg de ting som fr[em]mede plæer at seeV, og ved min ankomst i Rom [over]veldede mig de mange merværdehederVI som denne Bye frembyider saaledes at ieg ikke viste hvo[r ieg] skulde begynde. ieg kunde her ikke haabe at giøre nog[en Be]merning der fortiente at meddels førend at ieg h[av]de giodt mig bekent med det Hele og dets fonemmeste Dele; ikke Heller kunde ieg ligge Hand paa arbeædet entil ieg havde inrettet mig og funden et beqvem VerkstedVII. ieg har nu seet og til dels allerrede studeret de fornemmeste Ting her, ieg har giot [gjort] mig bekent med askellige kunstnereVIII og andre personer som intresere sig for kunsten af hvis omgan ieg kan Reæne [regne] paa at profeterre ved mit ophold her; og arbeider nu med al muelig flid
Med Rothe[s] Byste er ieg nu saa got som ferdig
mangel paa marmer blokke medens Søe krigenIX forhinderde Fartøerne fra Carrara at inløbe i Tibrenen hold mig nogen tiid tilbage, og neppe havde ieg i Julig monedX erholdet et stykke saa [blev] ieg overfalden af en feber som Røvede mig nogle uger
i miller Tiid gor [gjorde] ieg nu Rothe[s] BysteXI saa got som færdedg og alene Vanskeligheden med Transporten hindrer mig at sende det bort førrend enden af aaretXII. skulde Hans Ven[ner]XIII ønske at bekomme det udafhindretXIV saa beder ieg at det maate meldes mig om ieg skulde skekke det over land, dersom at de derremod lader det bero til foraarretXV saa hober ieg at kunde tillige sende Berstorff[s] BysteXVI som ieg har ud af puntterneXVII. Ved det giorde forsøeg har ieg funden at Vanske[li]g[h]ed[n] i at arbeide i marmor ikke er saa stor som ieg forrestilte mig og saa snart de omtalte Byster er ferdige agter ieg at giøre en figur i marmor men er enu ikke Ret enig med mig selv angaaende SosettetXVIII Jostisraaden ved af de offenlige Tidender at en Del af kunstsagerne aller Rede forrige sommerXIX blev enpaked for at sendes til FrazoserneXX og at andre i vinterXXI havde samme skiebne. Da ieg kom til Rom var de som de havde valgt ud af det Capitolinske museumXXII indpakkede og det Vatekaniske museumXXIII ma[ng]lede allerede den berymte AntinousXXIV, Herkules med sin SønXXV paa armen, de to greske felisoferXXVI med ander mindre betydende stykker.
ApolloXXVII havde man indmuret benene paa for at sette [h]am i Kasser, LaokoonXXVIII, TorsenXXIX og muserneXXX var endnu ikke Rørte. Det store tab som kunsterne have lit agter man nogesledes at Reparere med gibs avstøningerXXXI som man agter at sætte i stæden hvor originalene have staaet. Besynderlig kunverkkeXXXII er ikke fremkommet[,] af de betydeligst blant de nye koberverker finder ieg at verre bron[ze] dørrene af BartoligXXXIII aftengXXXIV og stukkne[,] af Th. pierlayXXXV samling af Instrumenter og Redskaber tegnede fra antike munumenter paa 100 tavler[,] samme AutorXXXVI har begynt at udgive [en] svite af antikke BaliefferXXXVII hvoraf maanenlig leveres 3 stykk[er] og hvoraf hidindtid er kommet 10 stk
ieg haaber med Tiden at finde leælighed til at melde om andre kunzvakerXXXVIII saa som ieg ikke skal forsømme at medele alt hvad ieg troer at kunde fortiene Josti Raaden[s]XXXIX opmeksomhed. ieg forlader mig paa at De vil vedbeholde den samme godhed for mig som ieg forhen har haft prøver paa og at mine Breve i Hvor magre de endog maatte udfalde ikke vil verre Dem uvelkommen
som ieg idetforbigangne har havt saa mange prøver paa

særdeles mekverdige konst vekkerXL er ikke bleven fremstillede siden den tiid ieg er i Rom! i blant de Nye koberstykker som mig er kommen for Øinene suynis mig de betydeligste at være Bro[n]ze Dørene af Baster i FlorenzXLI

Bertel

Oversættelse af dokument

After a long silence I have the honour of writing to the Counsellor. I should have expressed my continual devotedness and gratitude earlier for the great interest you have constantly shown me. However, convinced that you do not doubt my disposition I have not wanted to trouble you with a letter until I also could give you some information about art which might interest you and give you some news about my progress in the part of art which I have decided on. The long voyage did not give me much subject to write about. During my short stay in Naples I saw the things which foreigners usually see and on my arrival in Rome the many objects of interest which this city offers overwhelmed me, so that I did not know where to begin. Here I could not hope to notice anything that you deserved to be informed about until I had become acquainted with all of it and its most outstanding parts. Neither could I get down to work until I had arranged matters and found a convenient workshop. I have now seen and already studied the noblest things here, I have made the acquaintance of several artists and other persons who are interested in art and from whose intercourse I can count on benefiting during my stay here; and I now work with all possible diligence.
I have almost finished Rothe’s bust.
Deficiency of marble blocks while the war at sea prevented the boats from Carrara to enter the Tiber detained me for some time, and hardly had I obtained a piece in the month of July when I was attacked by a fever which stole away some weeks.
In the meantime, I have now almost finished Rothe’s bust and only the difficulty with the transport prevents me from sending it away before the end of the year. Should his friends wish to receive it immediately I ask to be informed if I should send it by land, whereas if they will wait till spring I hope to be able to send Bernstorff’s bust as well, which I have out of the points.
By the attempt I have made I have discovered that the difficulty in working in marble is not as great as I had imagined and as soon as the mentioned busts are finished I intend to make a figure of marble but I cannot yet decide about the theme. The Counsellor will know from public news that part of the objects of art already last summer were packed up to be sent to the French and that more this winter suffered the same fate. When I came to Rome the ones they had selected from the Capitol Museum were packed up and in the Vatican Museum already the famous Antinous was missing and Hercules with his son on his arm, the two Greek philosophers and other less important pieces.
They had built in the legs of Apollo to put him in crates. Laokoon, the Torso and the muses had not yet been touched. The great loss which artists have suffered they intend to repair reasonably by plaster casts, which they intend to place where the originals have been. Noticeable works of art have not appeared, of the most considerable among the new copper works I find the bronze doors by Bartolig drawn and incised, by TH. Pierlay collection of instruments and tools drawn from antique monuments of 100 tables, the same author has started to publish a suite of antique bas-reliefs of which 3 pieces are produced monthly and of which hitherto 10 pieces have appeared.
I hope eventually to find occasion to tell you about other works of art as I shall not omit to inform you about all I think might deserve the Counsellor’s attention. I trust you will persist in the same interest in me which I have earlier experienced and that my letters how thin they may appear will not be unwelcome to you.
Which I in the past have had so many proofs of.

Especially remarkable works of art have not been produced since I have come to Rome! Among the new copper works which I have seen the most important seems to be the Bronze Doors of the Baptistery in Florence.

Bertel


[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

This draft is the only known version of the letter.
Regarding the dating:
This draft letter must have been written between the end of 1797 and the beginning of 1798.
Firstly, some imprecise indications of time are to be found in the letter:
The context reveals that the draft is Thorvaldsen’s first letter to Abildgaard after his arrival in Rome 8.3.1797. Then he writes about the transportation of the bust of Tyge Rothe: “… the difficulty with the transport prevents me from sending it away before the end of the year_”, whereby he must mean the end of 1797. But he would really rather “wait till spring” because then the bust of _A.P. Bernstorff would also have been completed and could be sent at the same time, i.e. the spring of 1798. The bust of Tyge Rothe, however, was not sent until the summer of 1798, while the bust of _Bernstorff _had to wait another couple of years, see the article Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802.
Besides, Thorvaldsen mentions that the French already “last summer” had started to remove the most important artworks from the Roman museums. This had been done after the Peace of Tolentino 19.2.1797.
Based on this, the draft may be provisionally dated late 1797.
However, if one compares with Thorvaldsen’s report to the Academy of Fine Arts, which he sent in two copies of 5.1.1798 and 20.1.1798, the dating of the draft could be advanced to January 1798: The content of this draft to Abildgaard is an expanded version of the two letters to the Academy. In particular, his remarks about the sights of Rome, which prevented him from starting work immediately, are repeated with several points of similarity; in the present draft he writes: “…on my arrival in Rome the many objects of interest which this city offers overwhelmed me so that I did not know where to begin. Here I could not hope to notice anything that you deserved to be informed about until I had become acquainted with all of it and its most outstanding parts. Neither could I get down to work until I had arranged matters and found a convenient workshop. I have now seen and already studied the noblest things here …”.
In the letters of 5.1.1798 & 20.1.1798, Thorvaldsen writes: “The many objects of interest have had the effect that I could not get down to work until I had become acquainted with the most important things in Rome and the surrounding towns.”
The identical expressions “objects of interest”; “before I had become acquainted with” and “get down to work” indicate that the draft and the letters to the Academy were written at the same time.
In that case, Thorvaldsen could have sent the fair copy of the draft to Abildgaard at the same time as his letters to the Academy. At any rate, this practice of sending his letters to the Academy and to Abildgaard together was used by Thorvaldsen later, see e.g. his two letters of 12.10.1799 or of 4.4.1800.
The two versions of the report to the Academy of Fine Arts from 5.1.1798 and 20.1.1798 are addressed differently. The letter of 5.1.1798 is addressed in French, the common international language of postal services: “À L’Accademie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture & Architecture à Copenhague”. The letter of 20.1.1798, on the other hand, is addressed in Danish: “Til Det Kongelige Maler Billedhugg og Bygnngs Academie i Kiøbenhavn”. As the Danish text cannot have been immediately understandable to the Roman postal services, one might assume that Thorvaldsen sent his report of 20.1.1798 to the Academy enclosed in another letter with an international/French address on the envelope. It is natural to suggest that this other letter could have been a fair copy of the present draft to Abildgaard. If this is the case, Thorvaldsen made a fair copy of his draft around 20.1.1798, and the dating may then be advanced to January 1798.
In summary, we may say that Thorvaldsen must have started the draft at the end of 1797, and if a fair copy was made and sent (which Thiele I, p.123 doubts), it must have been done in January 1798.

Document Type

Egenhændigt udkast

Archival Reference

m28, nr. 15

Thiele

Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 124-126, bortset fra de sidste to afsnit.

Subjects

Persons

Works

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

Commentaries

  1. As appears from the following, this draft letter was the first Thorvaldsen wrote to Abildgaard after his arrival in Rome in March 1797.

  2. “Justitsråd” (= Counsellor) was a title conferred on various types of public servants, not just those in the courts of justice.
    Abildgaard received the title by virtue of his professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts.

  3. Thorvaldsen left Copenhagen 30.8.1796 on board the frigate Thetis and arrived 2.12.1796 in Malta, where the crew, however, was in quarantine until 18.12.1796. He did not leave Malta until a month later 20.1.1797 and reached Rome 8.3.1797.

  4. Thorvaldsen stayed in Naples from 31.1.1797 to 6.3.1797.

  5. Thorvaldsen mentions several of the sights he saw in Naples in his diary.

  6. I.e. the sights of Rome.

  7. Thorvaldsen’s workshop was probably in Vicolo Aliberti, see related article.

  8. Immediately after his arrival in Rome, Thorvaldsen made the acquaintance of Georg Zoëga, Carl Ludwig Fernow, Asmus Jakob Carstens and the entire circle of Northern European and particularly German artists and intellectuals in Rome.
    See Rainer Schoch: ‘Rom 1797 – Frihedens tilflugtssted’, in: B. Jørnæs et al. (ed.): Kunst og Liv i Thorvaldsens Rom, Copenhagen 1992, p. 9.

  9. After the French had succeeded in occupying Corsica in October 1796, the English had temporarily withdrawn their fleet from the Mediterranean. Therefore, it was probably the French who controlled the harbours while Napoleon was advancing in Northern Italy. The English, however, were still impeding civilian navigation.

  10. Dvs. juli måned.

  11. Thorvaldsen’s marble bust of Tyge Rothe, A225, was his first Roman work in marble in 1797, as is indicated further on in the letter. He sent the bust to Copenhagen during the summer of 1798 (see letter of 30.6.1798 from Thorvaldsen to the Academy of Fine Arts). However, it remained at the custom house in Copenhagen until the late summer of 1799, cf. the article Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802.

    Abildgaard got the bust in 1799, and it was to be found in his private residence at Charlottenborg at least until 1806 (see letters of 3.12.1799, 21.7.1800 and 14.8.1806 from Abildgaard). At some unknown later date it was surrendered to Rothe’s son Andreas Bjørn Rothe, who gave it to Thorvaldsen about a year after his return in 1838 (see C.F. Wilckens: Træk af Thorvaldsens Konstner- og Omgangsliv, Copenhagen 1874, p. 47).

  12. Thorvaldsen first wrote “before spring”; then “spring” has been crossed out, and “the end of the year” has been added above. It is clear that Thorvaldsen would have preferred to postpone sending the bust of Tyge Rothe_until the spring of 1798, when the bust of _A.P. Bernstorff had also been completed so that both portraits could be sent off together, see further on in the letter.
    From this it can be concluded that the draft must have been written during the last months of 1797, see the discussion about the dating.

  13. Probably those friends of Rothe who had commissioned the bust.

  14. Dvs. med det samme, uden hindringer.

  15. The spring of 1798, see the discussion about the dating.

  16. Thorvaldsen’s bust of A.P. Bernstorff, Brahetrolleborg. On the basis of the mask, A724, of the bust from 1795, A856, Thorvaldsen had modelled a new bust of Bernsdorff in 1797 in the classical style or à la romaine, i.e. without a whig and drapings. The original plaster model of this bust is in Thorvaldsens Museum, A208, and Thorvaldsen was at this time carving the marble copy.
    See Else Kai Sass: Thorvaldsens Portrætbuster, vol. I, p. 36-37, 40, 42-46, 48-49, 51-52; catalogue no. 27, vol. III, Copenhagen 1965, p. 62.

  17. This is a trade term. As part of the execution in marble, the sculptor marks a number of measuring points on the block of marble by transferring corresponding points on the plaster model. When the points have been carved off, the sculptor has achieved the correct form.

  18. Dvs. sujettet, emnet.

  19. I.e. the summer of 1797, see the discussion about the dating.

  20. In the Peace of Tolentino 19.2.1797 the Pope, besides considerable territorial cessions and large sums of money, had to hand over hundreds of the most famous artsworks and valuable manuscripts to the French. The majority was returned after the Treaty of Vienna 1815.
    The French had already begun the selection of the artworks which were to be taken away in November 1796, see Wilhelm von Uhden’s report of 12.11.1796 in: Der neue Teutsche Merkur, 1797, vol. 1, p. 55-57. Uhden’s report of 12.5.1797 shows that the majority of the works had been taken away at this time , see Der neue Teutsche Merkur, 1797, vol. 2, p. 274-275.
    The antique sculptures which were sent to Paris were incorporated in Les monumens antiiques du Musée Napoléon, dessinés et graves par Thomas Piroli, avec une explication par J.G. Schweighaueser, publiés par F. et P. Piranesi, Frères, vol. I-IV, Paris 1804-06 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M140).
    See also Thiele I, p. 105.

  21. It is a little unclear what Thorvaldsen means by “i vinter”. It could mean the time of the writing of the letter, i.e. the winter at the end of 1797, but as the French started packing artworks very soon after the Peace of Tolentino 19.2.1797, Thorvaldsen could also be referring to the previous winter at the beginning of 1797, see the discussion of the dating.

  22. The Capitoline Museum.

  23. The Papal art collections in the Vatican.

  24. The famous Hermes Belvedere, which is thought to date back to a Greek original by Praxiteles. Earlier it was erroneously called Antinous. See Il Museo Pio-Clementino, descritto da Giambattista e Ennio Qvirino Visconti, T. I-VI, Roma 1782-96, vol. I, plate VII, text p. 9-11 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M134); and Les monumens antiiques du Musée Napoléon, vol. I, plate 52, text p. 121-124 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M140).
    This statue was taken to Paris and placed in the Louvre but was later returned to the Vatican.
    Thorvaldsen acquired a cast of it, which is to be found in Thorvaldsens Museum, L38.

  25. Called Hercules with Telephos, who was Hercules’ son with the Athena priestess Auge in Tegea. See Il Museo Pio-Clementino, descritto da Giambattista e Ennio Qvirino Visconti, T. I-VI, Roma 1782-96, vol. II, plate IX (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M134); and Les monumens antiiques du Musée Napoléon, vol. II, plate 34, text p. 75-76, (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M140).

  26. Probably the two well-known sedentary statues of Menander and Posidippus, who, however, were not philosophers but comic writers.
    See Il Museo Pio-Clementino, descritto da Giambattista e Ennio Qvirino Visconti, T. I-VI, Roma 1782-96, vol. III, plates XV and XVI, text p. 16-20 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M134). The statues were among the works which were taken to Paris, see Les monumens antiiques du Musée Napoléon, vol. II, plates 69 and 70, text p. 153-156 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M140).
    Thorvaldsen acquired casts of the heads of the two statues, L140 and L141.

  27. Apollo Belvedere, found at the end of the 15th century near Anzio by the later pope Julius II and placed by him in the court of the Belvedere in the Vatican, hence the name. It is thought to be a marble copy of a bronze work by Leochares from the second half of the 4th century B.C.
    See Il Museo Pio-Clementino, descritto da Giambattista e Ennio Qvirino Visconti, T. I-VI, Roma 1782-96, vol. I, plates XIV, XV, text p. 23-29 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M134); and Les monumens antiiques du Musée Napoléon, vol. I, plate XV, text p. 41-46 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M140).
    Thorvaldsen acquired a cast of this statue, Thorvaldsens Museum L30.

  28. The antique sculpture group of Laocoon and his sons, executed in the first half of the first century B.C. by three sculptors from Rhodes: Hagesandros, Athanadoros and Polydoros. Found in 1506 in the ruins of the so-called baths of Titus, which later turned out to be Nero’s Golden House. See Il Museo Pio-Clementino, descritto da Giambattista e Ennio Qvirino Visconti, T. I-VI, Roma 1782-96, vol. II, plate XXXIX, text p. 73-79 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M134); and Les monumens antiiques du Musée Napoléon, vol. II, plate 62, text p. 131-140 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M140).

  29. The so-called Belvedere Torso is a Hellenistic work signed by Apollonios, son of Nestor from Athen. Earlier it was thought to be a statue of Hercules, see Il Museo Pio-Clementino, descritto da Giambattista e Ennio Qvirino Visconti, T. I-VI, Roma 1782-96, vol. II, plate X, p. 16-19 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M134). Now it is thought that it is more likely to be a Silenus.
    See also Les monumens antiiques du Musée Napoléon, vol. II, plate 37, text p. 81-82 (copy in Thorvaldsens Museum, M140).
    Thorvaldsen acquired a cast of this statue, Thorvaldsens Museum, L55.

  30. This is probably a reference to the seven statues of muses found near Tivoli with the statue of Apollo Chitharoedus, and several other related statues of muses in the Vatican. See I_l Museo Pio-Clementino, descritto da Giambattista e Ennio Qvirino Viscont_i, T. I-VI, Roma 1782-96, vol. I, plates XVII-XVIII and Les monumens antiiques du Musée Napoléon, vol. I, plates 21, 24, 27, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38.
    Thorvaldsen acquired a cast of the sedentary Urania, the muse of astronomy, Thorvaldsens Museum, L42.

  31. Dvs. afstøbninger.

  32. In this draft Thorvaldsen spells the word “kunstværker” (works of art)” in three different ways.
    Both the misspelling and the inconsistency seem to be good examples of Thorvaldsen’s dyslexia, see the related article about Thorvaldsens Spoken and Written Language.

  33. Bartolig has been deleted. It is probably a reference to a publication of engravings of the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti’s (1378-1455) bronze doors for the Baptistry in Florence. It is quite correctly not the engraver Pietro Santo Bartoli (1635-1700), who engraved the plates in this work. When Thorvaldsen refers to the publication as one of the new works of copper plates, he undoubtedly means: Die bronzerne Thüre des Baptisteriums S. Giovanni in Florenz, gez. und radirt von Feodor Iwanowitsch, Kalmuk. Herausgegeben in Rom von H. Keller, Bildhauer, 1798. A copy of this work is to be found in Thorvaldsens Museum, M275.
    Fedor Iwanowitsch is represented in Thorvaldsen’s collections by 9 drawings D789-D797.

  34. Dvs. aftegnede.

  35. Probably Tommaso Piroli. The work may be:T. Piroli: Le antichità di Ercolano, vol. I-IV, Roma 1789-1807.The publication is found in Thorvaldsens Museum, M121.

  36. The same author, i.e. Piroli.

  37. It is uncertain what suite of bas-reliefs is referred to here.
    It is not an early publication by subscription of Georg Zoëga’s Li bassirilievi antichi di Roma, which was published in its entirety in 1808 with engravings by the above-mentioned Tommaso Piroli.
    As early as the late 1790s there had been talk about publishing Zoëga’s writings on bas-reliefs , but in a letter of 16.5.1800 Zoëga writes that he is still waiting for a clarification of the situation, see A.D. Jørgensen: Georg Zoega. Et mindeskrift, Copenhagen 1881, p. 160-161.

  38. In this draft Thorvaldsen spells the word “kunstværker” (works of art)” in three different ways.
    Both the misspelling and the inconsistency seem to be good examples of Thorvaldsen’s dyslexia, see the related article about Thorvaldsens Spoken and Written Language.

  39. Dvs. justitsrådens.

  40. In this draft Thorvaldsen spells the word “kunstværker” (works of art)” in three different ways.
    Both the misspelling and the inconsistency seem to be good examples of Thorvaldsen’s dyslexia, see the related article about Thorvaldsens Spoken and Written Language.

  41. The Baptistry of Saint John in Florence. Thorvaldsen is probably referring to Die bronzerne Thüre des Baptisteriums S. Giovanni in Florenz, gez. und radirt von Feodor Iwanowitsch, Kalmuk. Herausgegeben in Rom von H. Keller, Bildhauer, 1798, see the note above.

Last updated 17.07.2017