The Expanding Commonalty

  • Allan de Waal,, 1998
  • This is a re-publication of the article:

    Allan de Waal: ‘The Expanding Commonalty. Thorvaldsens Museum as a Focal Point for a Panorama of Copenhagen’s Monumental Buildings’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1998, p. 8-16.

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


Like public buildings of the time in other Europe- an cities, the monumental buildings in Copenhag- en from the second half of the 19th century were, semiotically speaking, determined by the political transition from monarchical rule to democracy.

Royal and imperial collections were made available to the public in new, free-standing buildings erected away from the medieval city centre.

In addition to being an architecturally unique building partly connected to the site on which the old Copenhagen Castle stood, Thorvaldsens Museum is a remarkable example of a building form midway between the classical and the modern:

-It has something of the quality of a ruin in the untreated exposition of its walls with their deep holes and niches.
-The columned facade encapsulated in a monumental end wall invites the public inside.
-In its entire architectural concept it is a cross between a studio and a mausoleum, almost monastic in the solution to the plan arrangement, with the Christ Hall, cells and the entrance hall’s refectory (as the Danish art historian Vilhelm Wanscher already pointed out early in the century).

Whereas public hospitals, prisons and schools have later had a social objective, Thorvaldsens Museum was conceived with a cultural and educative aim, seeking individualisation and idealization rather than having an enforced civilising role as had been the case in the hierarchical buildings of earlier periods.

Last updated 11.05.2017