1836 December 23rd Rome.
From here we drove to Thorwaldsen’s atelier, a series of barnlike rooms in bye lanes, & amidst the stir and clamour of low Italian life. In the first room, we found many men performing the first processes, measuring & chiselling blocks of marble; in the second, were many pretty little bas reliefs, bust of Napoleon & models of former works, but not any very distinguished. Four small lunettes of marble bore allegorical representations of the elements, a little boy on a dolphin’s back for water, another on an eagle for air, but earth & fire I forget. The execution was beautiful. A cast of Byron’s head, is very different from any thing, I have seen before, representing more beauty of profile & a worse expression about the mouth.
Walking a little distance, among cartwrights[?] & wheelwrights, we were carried to a room filled with works of the scholars of the great artist, for sale no doubt. Some of them were pretty. Going still farther, apparently into the stables of the Barberini palace, we came to the real collection of his works. Here was a colossal statue of Schiller, another equally large of Guttenberg, with bas reliefs for the pedestal, to be put up at Mayence. Here was the colossal figure of our Saviour, full of nobleness dignity & gentleness; the Apostles stand round, each bearing strong expressions of character & feeling. The St. John is beautiful, looking up with a rapt, devotional feeling. We saw too the casts of the figures for the pediment of the same church, in Copenhagen, for which the statues of our Saviour & the Apostles are destined, representing St. John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, of which each figure is full of interest and grace. I saw the engravings of them last winter & thought it a work of the greatest genius. In this room is the pedestal of the font of the same church, with the exquisite bas relief of our Saviour blessing little children, a cast of which I have seen in Boston. His beautiful Shepherd boy, which we saw near Dresden, is here too. His other great work, the bas relief of Alexander’s entrance into Babylon, I understood and admired much more in the engraving, than I could this afternoon in plaster. It was a very interesting visit. Hoppin came home and dined with us. Mr. Kestner called to tell us the arrangements, he had made for our accommodations at St. Peter’s, Christmas day. Hoppin left us. Mr. Ticknov went to the Princess Borghese & I wrote.