From afar - Private, Foreign and Public Relations in Thorvaldsen's Jason


From afar – Private, foreign and public relations in Thorvaldsen’s Jason

Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Jason is a transitional figure, not only considered in relation to the artistic development of the Danish sculptor, but also in a more fundamental and historical sense. The statue is located on the threshold between fundamentally different notions or paradigms of sculpture as well as on the threshold between different ideas of human individuality. This paper suggests that Thorvaldsen’s statue, despite its obvious reference to a classical example, is in fact more modern than antique. This is due to its ambivalent attitude vis-à-vis the beholder and the surrounding space. Being at the same time present and, as it were, dismissive, Jason on the one hand approaches the spectator with the lower part of his body while on the other hand he turns his head away, focusing on a point located in another space, far from the one in which the sculptural body is physically embedded. From this split emerges an interior space of sorts which is not immediately accessible. One could here speak of a kind of sculptural inferiority testifying to fundamental changes in the relations between private and public experience taking place in Thorvaldsen’s own time, giving notions of individuality and autonomy a new definition different from the more publicly defined individuality of Antiquity. The ambivalence of its bodily gesture and thus of its phenomenological appearance allows us to see Jason as a paradoxical pre-modern vehicle for the resistance potential characteristic.

Last updated 11.05.2017