The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

The Place of Sculpture in the 19th Century Museum of Art

  • Solfrid Söderlind,, 1998
  • This is a re-publication of the article:

    Solfrid Söderlind: ‘The Place of Sculpture in the 19th Century Museum of Art’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1998, p. 46-54.

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


The Place of Sculpture in the 19th Century Museum of Art

The article describes the role and place of sculpture in the first public art museum in Scandinavia, the so-called Royal Museum in Stockholm, which was founded in 1792 and opened in 1794. The museum’s collection of sculpture built on King Gustav Ill’s acquisitions of antique sculpture resulting from his travels in Italy 1783-84. The original layout in the museum was the work of the cus- todian Carl Frederik Fredenheim and was carried out after the death of the king in 1792, when the collections of sculpture were declared to be State property. During the 19th century these collections were combined with painting and contemporary Swedish sculpture, and 1836 saw the acquisition of the first plaster cast. At the beginning of the 1840s, the sculpture galleries contained sculp- ture and painting from several periods (from Classical antiquity and, in the case of painting, from the 17th to 19th centuries). In 1865-66, when the Royal Museum was transformed into a national gallery known as Nationalmuseum, a large number of plaster casts were acquired, the aim of which was to provide an art-historical overview of the development of sculpture. Interest in the attempt to display a complete history of the development of sculpture faded towards the end of the century, and in 1914 the plaster casts were removed when the value of the originals was seen to be more important than the educational value of the casts.

Last updated 11.05.2017