The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Eight Sculptures Defined by their Accessories

  • William Gelius,, 2011
  • This is a re-publication of the article: William Gelius – Eight Sculptures Defined by their Accessories, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1994, p. 114-123.
    For a presentation of the article in its original appearance in Danish, please see this facsimile scan.


Eight Sculptures Defined by their Accessories
The Thorvaldsen Museum’s special exhibition during the second half of 2011 consists of a series of a total of eight laser-chrome colour prints, 200 by 149.5 cm created by the artist-duo Michael Elmgreen (b. Copenhagen 1961) and Ingar Dragset (b. Trondheim 1969) in 2009. All portray a sculpture by Thorvaldsen with the addition of contemporary clothing or accessories. In E&D’s “Shepherd Boy (Tank Top)” the inserted garment emphasizes the nakedness of the Thorvaldsen boy. “Mercury (Socks)” sends the god to the changing room at a football stadium.”Jason (Briefs) ” places a question mark by the heroic values that Thorvaldsen’s sculpture endows upon the mythical figure. “Ganymede (T-shirts)” shows Jupiter’s young lover as a fan of the Thorvaldsen sculpture “Shepherd Boy”.”Ganymede (Shorts)” transforms the hard-working marble youth into a sex object and “Ganymede (Jockstrap)” transports the same youth to a modern, homosexual context. “Adonis (Backpack)” turns the mythological ladies’ man into a streaker or interrailer, and “Cupid Triumphant (Sneakers)” implies that the love that Cupid represents is not only the platonic kind as suggested by Thorvaldsen in giving him great angel wings. E&D’s photo series, in setting the scene for Thorvaldsen’s sculptures, provokes by focusing upon the erotic. The artists themselves say, in reference to their Thorvaldsen series, ” that it is sometimes as if the art that has been raised to what one calls ‘Danish national heritage’ has had all of its vitality and potency drained out of it in the process of cultural dissemination. It is as if the national icons have had their rough edges knocked off and been domesticated before being allowed into the warmth of the history books”. In this way, the audience has also gradually been raised not to observe the erotic dimension in Thorvaldsen’s art. In other words, E&D’s Thorvaldsen series can be regarded as an artistic corrective to the time-honoured perception of the nationally canonised portrait sculptor.

Last updated 11.05.2017