The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on 25.2.1804

I.e. Gotskalk Thorvaldsen. As the busts were never sold, the father did not profit by them.
The reason why Thorvaldsen does not mention his mother, Karen Thorvaldsen, is that, at the time of the completion of this letter 25.2.1804, he had received Abildgaard’s letter of 17.1.1804 with the news about the death of his mother. This appears from the fact that he answers the question about the price of a bust posed by Abildgaard in his letter. That he knew about his mother’s death when he wrote this letter also appears from the fact that Stanley, in his letter of 28.2.1804, writes that he was informed of the death the day before by Schubart, who like himself was in Naples. Schubart must have been told in a letter from Thorvaldsen in Rome. As it must be assumed that it will take a minimum of two days for a letter from Rome to reach Naples, see Mail Processing Time Naples, there is no doubt that Thorvaldsen must have known about his mother’s death when he wrote this letter 25.2.

Thorvaldsen was only able to tell Abildgaard about the strong impression his mother’s death had made on him in a draft letter of 6.8.1804:
“I formerly received the letter which Your Honour has honoured me with and whose contents were so much more painful to me as I at once and without taking measures in advance had to learn about the death of my beloved mother. You informed me about this sad piece of news in few words, and God knows how painful it was to me. I am, however, completely convinced that Your Honour did not mean to cast me down to such a degree by the few lines you wrote to me.”
However, in the final letter of 6.8.1804 to Abildgaard the matter was not mentioned, so it has clearly been difficult for Thorvaldsen to tell Abildgaard about his grief.
Thiele I, p. 209 thinks that Abildgaard’s news about the mother’s death was expressed in “a very ungentle and casual way”, which aroused a “feeling of bitterness” in Thorvaldsen. And Thiele continues, p. 210: “At the time Thorvaldsen concealed his resentment against Abildgaard over this letter [of 17.1.1804] as well as he could by not mentioning his mother’s death at all in the letter he wrote back to him…” Thorvaldsen, then, suppressed his reaction not only in his first letter of 25.2.1804, but also in the second six months later.

Last updated 20.04.2015