The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

The Maintenance of a Major European Work of Architecture

  • Otto Käszner,, 1998
  • This is a re-publication of the article:

    Otto Käszner: ‘The Maintenance of a Major European Work of Architecture’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1998, p. 195-199.

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


It has been said that Copenhagen only possesses two buildings which in originality and artistic impact are in the same class as the great European works of architecture, that is to say Amalienborg Palace and Thorvaldsens Museum. As Thorvaldsens Museum is Copenhagen Municipality’s inheritance, the City Architect has over the years been concerned with the maintenance of the building and major repairs to it. Thorvaldsens Museum is a scheduled monument, and work is naturally undertaken in close collaboration with the National Forest and Nature Agency as authority and adviser. Aspects of the maintenance and repair work, mainly relating to the exterior, are illustrated by means of a number of examples.

At the end of the 1980s we became aware that the anchoring of the quadriga had been seriously weakened by rust. The risk of its falling necessitated the great bronze sculpture being taken down to be examined, fitted with new anchors and remounted above the entrance to the building.

The renewal of the courtyard surface, the pattern of which depicts an ancient racecourse, took place in the summer of 1995. The composition of the concrete was developed on the basis of extensive preliminary examinations. A diamond cutter was used on the concrete after hardening to divide it into fields corresponding to the previous design. The aim has throughout been to improve the technique at the same time as retaining the expression.

Sonne’s Frieze was recreated by Axel Salto between 1952 and 1959. Now that the Frieze has been there for 40 years, its surface is dirty, as are the polychrome facades in general. Conservators from the National Museum and the School of Conservation in the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts have since carried out an inspection and done samples of cleaning frame casings of doors and windows and picture surfaces. They have so far been able to conclude that it ought to be possible to clean them by carefully brushing with a mixture of demineralised water and various bicarbonates.

Most recently, Copenhagen City Council has promised 5,6 million Danish kroner for repairs to the copper roof and the guttering. Watertight copper roofing and guttering is of vital importance especially now with the start of a programme for cleaning the ceiling decorations.

Last updated 11.05.2017