The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

No. 1747 of 10246
Sender Date Recipient
John Gibson [+]

Sender’s Location


Presumably between October 1817 and September 1819 [+]

Dating based on

Den her beskrevne begivenhed er ikke dateret, men foregår i Rom og må derfor have fundet sted efter Gibsons ankomst til Rom i oktober 1817. Den tyske maler Peter von Cornelius var i Rom i 1811-1819, for først at komme igen 1830-31, samt 1833-35 (og senere, men da var Thorvaldsen ikke længere i byen). Eftersom Ernst Zacharias Platner omtales som ung, må der allersenest være tale om Cornelius’ første ophold frem til september 1819, der derfor sættes som den senest mulige datering. Det er dog muligt, at Gibson først har fået anekdoten fortalt længe efter, at begivenheden havde fundet sted, sådan at den tidligste datering kan rykkes tilbage til Cornelius ankomst 1811.


Gibson retells an anecdote about Thorvaldsen, the painter Peter von Cornelius, and a number of scholars who are invited by the painter Ernst Zacharias Platner to act as critics of a large sketch by Platner. Their verdicts are pronounced dramatically without words.

[...] A great many years ago the celebrated German painter, [Peter] Cornelius, Thorwaldsen, the sculptor, and some three or four scholars were invited by a young Saxon painter of the name of Plattner to give their opinion respecting a cartoon on which he had been working for a considerable time. Plattner was not a genius, but a very amiable man, and much esteemed by all.
Behold the great cartoon, Cornelius, Thorwaldsen, and Plattner standing before it, all in dead silence, Plattner awaiting anxiously to hear the judgement which he expected to be pronounced upon his work. After some time had elapsed in profound silence, Cornelius in deep thought, in an instant, without uttering a word, ran up to the cartoon, and jumped smack through the middle of it. Thorwaldsen seeing this, also ran on and jumped after Cornelius, right through; then the scholars, like so many hounds, leaped one after the other, and followed their leader. Poor Plattner, what did he do? He also followed the rest, and through he flew, and joined the laughter of the whole company.

It seems that the composition of the cartoon was very defective, for the artist had divided his design into two equel parts, leaving the centre empty, and it was through the vacant space that the stern, severe judges took their leap. However, this terrible affair had its beneficial effect; for it cured the poor artist from his useless ambition in pursuit of high art. Soon after, the post of diplomatic agent was given to him. [...]

General Comment

Beretningen giver, sand eller ej, et vidunderligt indblik i kunstkritikken blandt kunstnerkolleger i datidens Rom. Også Thieme Becker, op. cit., beretter, at Ernst Zacharias Platner skiftede metier fra maler til kunstkritiker og diplomat efter kritik fra kollegaen, den tyske maler Peter von Cornelius. Thorvaldsen og optrinnet beskrevet ovenfor er dog ikke nævnt.

Ikke omtalt hos Thiele.
Other references

  • Citeret fra Gibsons selvbiografi: T. Matthews (ed.): The Biography of John Gibson, R.A., Sculptor, Rome, London 1911, p. 221-222.
  • Ulrich Thieme & Felix Becker (red.): “Platner, Ernst Zacharias” in: Algemeines Lexicon der bildenden Künstler, Leipzig 1933, bind 27, p. 140

Characterizations of Thorvaldsen · Artistic Environment in Rome · Thorvaldsen as a Connoisseur · Thorvaldsen's Humour
Peter von Cornelius · Ernst Zacharias Platner · Bertel Thorvaldsen
Last updated 04.12.2016 Print