Omkring 1.2.1804


Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location



Herman Schubart

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Tilskrift: A Sua Eccellenza / il Sigr Barone de Schubart / CavaliereI del’Ordine di Dannebrogue / Giambellano di S M il Re di Dan- / nimarca e Suo Menistro Plenipo- / tenziario alla Corta del Rè delle Due Sicilie / à Napoli

Dating based on

Brevudkastet er ikke dateret, men er svar på Schubarts brev af 21.1.1804. Det må antages, at Thorvaldsen sendte et færdigt brev umiddelbart efter modtagelsen af Schubarts brev fra Napoli, da Schubart udbeder sig et svar, og da Thorvaldsen ikke havde svaret på Schubarts første brev af 12.11.1803. Postekspeditionstiden mellem Napoli og Rom taget i betragtning – omkring en uges tid – kan en mulig datering af nærværende brevudkast altså foreslås til omkring 1.2.1804.


Thorvaldsen thanks Schubart and his sister Charlotte Schimmelmann for the efforts they are making on his behalf. He asks for advice on the subject of a work for Schimmelmann. Since November Thorvaldsen has modelled the portrait busts of Jevdokija Ivanovna Golitsyna, cf. A304, Ivan Vorontsov, A302, and Adam Gottlob Detlef Moltke, A212. Presently he is working on the bust of A.P. Bernstorff, probably A209. After this he plans to model a figure. Jason with the Golden Fleece, A822, is awaiting the sculptor’s fine carving, but due to damp in his studio he does not dare to work there.


Hoibaarne Herr Baron

Det er for mig umulig at udtrykke til Deres Eccellenza den Hengivenhed og Taknemmelighed ieg føler ved bestandig at see nye Frugter af Deres inderlige Godhed imod migII. Hvad min største Fornøielse skal være da ieg er saa Lykkelig at have Dem til min Velynder, er at søge saa vit som mulig at giøre mig Deres edle og fortreffelige Sindelag verdig. Den mig meddelte Oversættelse af de tvende BreveIII fra Deres Frue Søster Grevinde SchimelmannIV har inderlig rørt mig, ieg beder Deres Eccelenze at takke Grevinden i mit Navn. Det giør mig ont at de to BusterV som var i min forglemte KasseVI ikke har kundet komme hende tilVII, men nu venter jeg af Deres Godhed et Raad hvad Sujet jeg helst kunde udarbeide som maatte være til hendes Fornøielse. Med hiertelig Taknemmelighed imodtager jeg det tilbudne ForskudVIII, og naar jeg igien begynder at arbeyde noget for mig selv, saa skal ieg tage mig den Frihed at bede Deres Excelenza om sammes Udbetaling. Jeg er endnu ikke ret i gang men haaber at det snart skal gaaeIX. Siden Deres AfreiseX har ieg ei andet giort end modellere nogle Portræt Büster, nemlig Prin[c]esse de GalitzinXI Hendes Søster Søn, VorontzoXII og Grev MoltkeXIII[.] Deres BernstoffXIV har ieg under arbeide og naar den er færdig agter ieg modellere en FigurXV som ieg ennu ikke ret er eenig med mig selv hvad den skal blive. Min JasonXVI er saa vit at den venter paa migXVII men ieg tør ikke endnu vove at arbeyde i mit VerkstedXVIII formedels FugtighedenXIX. Deres Eccelenza maa forlade mig dette Smørerie da ieg af uvane i at skriveXX bebyrder Dem med et Brev som De mox[e]nXXI vil kunde lese. Jeg stoler paa Der[e]s Godhed som ieg har saa mange Beviser paa og saaledes henlever Dere[s]


Oversættelse af dokument

Sir, high-born Baron,

It is impossible for me to express to your Excellency the devotion and gratitude I feel when continually seeing new fruits of your sincere goodness toward me. As I am so fortunate to have you as my patron, my greatest pleasure should be to seek, as far as possible, to make myself worthy of your noble and excellent disposition. The translation sent to me of the two letters from your sister, Countess Schimmelmann, touched me sincerely; I beg your Excellency to thank the Countess in my name. I am sorry that the two busts that were in my forgotten crate were not able to be delivered to her, but now I await advice, from your kindness, on what subject I best could work with that might grant her pleasure. I accept with gratitude the advance payment offered, and once I again begin to work on something for myself, I will take the liberty of asking your Excellency for payment for the same. I am not truly underway yet, but hope that will happen soon. Since your departure, I have done nothing other than modeled some busts, namely, of Princesse de Galitzin; her sister’s son, Vorontzo; and Count Moltke[.] I am at work on your Bernstorff, and when it is finished, I intend to model a figure that I am not entirely in agreement with myself about what it will be. My Jason is so far along that it is waiting for me, but I do not yet dare to work in my workshop on account of the humidity. Your Excellency must forgive me this mere scribbling, as because I am unaccustomed to write, I burden you with a letter that you will almost be able to read. I trust in your kindness, of which I have so many proofs, and so remain your


[Translated by David Possen]

General Comment

The draft is an answer to Schubart’s letter of 21.1.1804. It is the earliest known letter from Thorvaldsen to Schubart and probably the first altogether.

The draft is written in pencil by Thorvaldsen while Georg Zoëga must be the author of several deletions, corrections, and additions in ink. The corrections bear the unmistakable impress of Zoëga’s hand as, for instance, in letters of Beginning of February 1802 and 24.10.1797.
In order to elucidate the difference between Zoëga’s corrected version and the original by Thorvaldsen, the pencilled draft has been copied without Zoëga’s corrections in the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Letter-Writing Process.
Even though Thorvaldsen excuses his “scribbling” on the plea of lack of writing routine, and even though there are a number of mistakes in the uncorrected pencilled draft, it still weakens the myth that the sculptor did not have any writing skills at all.

Document Type

Egenhændigt udkast


Georg Zoëga

Comment on amanuensis

Georg Zoëga har ikke skrevet udkastet, men kun rettet i Thorvaldsens første udkast, se mere herom i den generelle kommentar.

Archival Reference

m28, nr. 20


Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 216-217.




A822 Jason med det gyldne skind, 1803, A822
A209 A.P. Bernstorff, 1804, A209
A304 Jevdokija Ivanovna Golitsyna, 1803-1804, A304
A302 Ivan Vorontsov?, 1803-1804, A302
A212 Adam Gottlob Detlef Moltke, 1803-1804, A212


  1. Schubart’s titler mentioned in the address were: “White Knight” of the Order of Dannebrog (appointed 1803), “Kammerherre” (Chamberlain) (appointed 1786), and ambassador to the Court of Naples (appointed 1801).

  2. Thorvaldsen is referring to Schubart’s very active engagement at the turn of 1803-04 in securing commissions from official sources in Denmark which he could execute in Rome, see more about this in the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Continuance in Rome 1803-1804.

  3. Two letters of 10.12.1803 and 15.12.1803 from Charlotte Schimmelmann to her brother Herman Schubart, which the latter had quoted in his letter of 21.1.1804 to Thorvaldsen.
    Schimmelmann’s two letters are only known from Schubart’s letter.

  4. The Danish salon hostess Charlotte Schimmelmann.

  5. It is not clear precisely which two busts Thorvaldsen is referring to. However, he is trying to answer the letter of 21.1.1804 from Schubart in which Schimmelmann’s letters were quoted. Here she first mentions the bust of A.P. Bernstorff, (1797, Brahetrolleborg, cf. A208), then the bust of Raphael, A752. After that she writes: “Now 3 Roman emperors remain…”, thus referring to Thorvaldsen’s marble busts of Agrippa, A759, and the two versions of Cicero, A760 and A761. Thorvaldsen may reasonably have regarded these three busts as just two, so it must be assumed that the sculptor is referring to this passage when he mentions the “two busts”.
    He sent busts to Copenhagen on several occasions. See the related article about Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802.

  6. The busts were packed not in one but in two crates that were left uncollected at the custom house in Copenhagen from December 1802 to the middle of December 1803 at the latest, see Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802.

  7. Thorvaldsen must be referring to Schimmelmann’s letter of 15.12.1803 to her brother, in which she writes that she has “unfortunately not seen any of the beautiful [busts] as you know that I am always shut up in my house.” It is not known why she was confined to her home. The passage is reproduced in letter of 21.1.1804 from Schubart to Thorvaldsen.
    He is clearly annoyed that such an interested person had not seen the busts, especially as they had been executed with a view to being sold. In his letter of 25.2.1804 to Abildgaard, he wrote : “The bust were all made on speculation…”

  8. As a consequence of Thorvaldsen’s petition of 7.11.1803 to Schimmelmann, she asked Herman Schubart in her letter to pay the sculptor “…one or two hundred rix-dollars… just arrange it so that he will be freed from his oppressive circumstances which would have a harmful effect on his health.” Thus the amount was apparently to be regarded as a present.
    Nevertheless, Thorvaldsen gallantly chose to regard the money as an advance on an unspecified commission and therefore asks what “subject” would be suitable.
    However, it is not known whether Thorvaldsen ever received the money.
    Regarding the financial relations between Schubert and Thorvaldsen, see ...the Only Price I Charge.

  9. Thorvaldsen may be referring to the illness, haemorrhoids, which seriously debilitated him in 1803-04, see the related article Thorvaldsen’s Illness 1803-04.

  10. Schubart left Rome in November 1803 and arrived in Naples 12.11.1803, as appears from his letter of this date. He stayed in Naples until around 1.5.1804.

  11. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s portrait bust of the Russian Princess Jevdokija Ivanovna Golitsyna, (marble version A304).
    The passage provides a reliable dating of the bust.

  12. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s portrait bust of Ivan Vorontsov, son of the Russian Countess Irina Vorontsova, who also commissioned five statues from Thorvaldsen during the vinter of 1803-04, see more about this in the related article Vorontsova’ Commission.
    The bust of Ivan Vorontsov has not been positively identified, but Else Kai Sass has suggested that the plaster bust, A302, might represent the then 13-14-year-old boy. See Else Kai Sass: Thorvaldsens Portrætbuster, vol. I, Copenhagen 1963, p. 90-96.
    The passage provides a reliable dating of the bust whether it is A302 or some other portrait bust.

  13. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s bust of the Danish-German Count Adam Gottlob Detlev Moltke, cf. A212. The passage provides a reliable dating of the bust.

  14. Probably the bust of A.P. Bernstorff, A209, which Herman Schubart commissioned in 1803, see letter of 12.11.1803 from Schubart to Thorvaldsen. The bust was finished in marble, A207, in a reduced version in the summer of 1806, see letter of 8.8.1806 from Thorvaldsen to Schubart. However, it never ended up with Schubart, probably for financial reasons, and today it is in Thorvaldsens Museum.

  15. It is not known what figure Thorvaldsen is referring to. It could be one of the statues which had been commissioned at this time by the Russian Countess Vorontsova. It is known that Thorvaldsen began the modeling of Ganymede Offering the Cup (cf. A41) in March at the latest , see the related article about Vorontsova’s Commission.

  16. The marble version of Jason with the Golden Fleece, A822.

  17. This must mean that the block of marble for Jason had already been rough-hewn by the marble sculptors Finelli & Keller at that time and was now ready for Thorvaldsen to do the fine carving, cf. Stig Miss: ‘Tilblivelsen af Jason med det gyldne skind – de samtidige kilder’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum 2003, Copenhagen 2004, p. 14.
    That the carving of the statue should have come so far that it had been carved in the main, i.e. “out of the points”, fits in very well with the expression “that it is waiting for me” – cf. C.F.F. Stanley’s comment in letter of 7.9.1805 concerning the sculptures in Thorvaldsen’s workshop that have been roughly carved: “…these will soon be waiting for your polishing…”
    See more about the making of Jason in the related article about Jason and the Hope Commission.

  18. Thorvaldsen’s workshop on the corner of Vicolo della Cantena and Piazza Barberini, see the related article about Thorvaldsen’ Workshops.
    During their stay in Rome from the autumn of 1802 to 12.6.1803, Friederike Brun and the Swiss author Karl Victor von Bonstetten visited Thorvaldsen’s workshop “dans un coin obscur du palais Barberini”, where they saw Jason with the Golden Fleece, A52, being carved, see Aimé Steinlen: ‘Charles-Victor de Bonstetten, étude biographique et littéraire’, in C.-A. Sainte-Beuve (ed.): Causeries du lundi, vol. 14, Paris 1858, p. 462-463.

  19. It must be assumed that Thorvaldsen’s illness, cf. above, made him wary of exposing himself to a damp workshop.

  20. Thorvaldsen was not known as a great letter writer even though the Archives contain several of his letters, see the related article Thorvaldsen’s Spoken and Written Language or the subject heading Thorvaldsen’s Unwillingness to Write.

  21. Thiele I, p. 217 misreads the word as hardly.

  22. The A must be for Alberto, which Thorvaldsen used together with Bertel, see the related article on this. Thorvaldsen, however, was not on a first-name basis with Herman Schubart, so the A may just indicate that he intended to use the signature Alberto Thorvaldsen in the finished letter. See also the related article On Familiar Terms with Thorvaldsen.

Last updated 12.10.2015