The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Dannecker and Thorvaldsen

  • Bjarne Jørnæs,, 1994
  • This is a re-publication of the article: Bjarne Jørnæs: ‘Dannecker and Thorvaldsen’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1994, p. 164-171.
    For a presentation of the article in its original appearance in Danish, please see this facsimile scan.
    For a presentation of the English summary in its original appearance, please see this facsimile scan.

Three statues of the Evangelists Luke, Matthew and Mark, in the Rotenberg Chapel outside Stuttgart in the German land Württemberg, are strongly related to Bertel Thorvaldsen, but forgotten in the Danish literature on the sculptor.

The commision for statues of the four Evangelists, the three mentioned and John, for the Rotenberg Chapel, both a Greek Orthodox church and a mausoleum for the royal Wurttemberg family, came from King Wilhelm I in 1822-23. The country’s leading sculptor, Johann Heinrich Dannecker was, however, only commissioned to execute the statue of John, while his pupil Theodor Wagner was to make the Luke statue. For the two remaining statues Thorvaldsen was asked to execute bozzetti and to supervise the actual modelling of the two statues in full size by two young pupils, Johann Leeb for Matthew and Johann Nepomuk Zwerger for Mark. Thorvaldsen also supervised the modelling and sculpting of Wagner’s Luke, the bozzetto for which Dannecker had approved. These three statues were executed in Rome in 1823-25, while Dannecker’s John, which was modelled in Stuttgart, was finished only in 1828.

Three of the statues include the symbol of the Evangelist in question, while Dannecker’s John stands alone without the usual eagle. That the younger sculptors included the symbols is due to Thorvaldsen’s recommendation – he himself was using symbols for his Apostles for the Copenhagen Church of Our Lady in execution at the same time as the Evangelists.

Thorvaldsen, usually critical of older colleagues and helpful to younger artists, was on friendly terms with Dannecker, whom he visited in Stuttgart on his trip to Denmark in 1819. Because of Dannecker’s failing health and mental decline the city of Stuttgart did not order the monument for the poet Schiller from its own sculptor but asked Thorvaldsen instead. After the statue was erected in 1839, Thorvaldsen visited the town in 1841 on his way to Rome. He was feasted and serenaded and witnessed an illumination of his Schiller statue. He also visited the Rotenberg Chapel, but appears not to have mentioned his involvement in three of the statues to his travelling companions, the Stampe family.

Perhaps he wished to forget his share in the creation of these statues. Be that as it may, he succeeded in excluding them from his oeuvre in the Danish literature. In the German, on the other hand, they were treated as his works as can be seen in Adolf Speemann: Dannecker, Berling & Stuttgart 1909, and in Christian von Holst: Dannecker-Der Bildhauer, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1987.

Last updated 11.05.2017