The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

The Frieze of Jørgen Sonne

  • Hannemarie Ragn Jensen,, 1998
  • This is a re-publication of the article:

    Hannemarie Ragn Jensen: ‘ Jørgen Sonne’s Frieze – a Break with the Old Hierarchy and Established Norms’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1998, p. 157-168.

    For a presentation of the article in its original appearance in Danish, please see this facsimile scan.


Concerning both extent, content and technical method, Sonne’s work is unique in Danish visual art. It is likewise difficult to find comparable examples in European decorative art of the period. This article therefore signifies an attempt to develop further a reading of the layers of significance to which Sonne has given form with the frieze on Thorvaldsens Museum by examining whether it can be put into a contemporary context which can partly justify Sonne’s technical experiment, and partly illuminate the choice of motifs and stylistic expressions.

Sonne’s ability to live up to M. G. Bindesbøll’s expectations derived from his having had as his teacher in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, Thorvaldsen’s friend, Professor J. L. Lund. Through Lund’s links with the German Romantic School, Sonne is introduced to the Nazarenes’ idealistic desire to paint for the people and their initiatives in renewing painting both technically and thematically. The many breaches with academic tradition and the old hierarchy of genres in Sonne’s decorations are justified on the basis of the frieze’s being contemporaneous with radical changes in Danish society and the establishment of a new national self understanding.

Last updated 11.06.2018