Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location



Kunstakademiet, København

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Tilskrift: Til det kongelige Maler Billedhugger og Bygnings Academie.
Ingen udskrift.

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.


Thorvaldsen’s first report to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts since his departure from Copenhagen. He accounts for the many delays he has suffered during his journey. He describes his itinerary from Malta via Palermo to Naples. He assures the Academy that he will try to make up for lost time.


Underdanigst Pro MemoriaI

Jeg giver mig herved den Frihed at tilkendegive det kongelige Academie mit OpholdstedII og Aarsagerne til den Forsinkelse, hvormed jeg har maattet giøre min Reyse til Datum.
Med Fregatten ThetisIII hvormed ieg gik til Meddelhavet, i den tanke hastigere at kunde komme til Italien. Fregattens Bestemmelse var at gaae til Alger med PresenterneIV men at herpaa skulle følge 40 Dages quarantaineV tenkte jeg ikke i Kiøbenhavn. Vi kom fra Alger til Malta og denne quarantaine blev os forreskreven. General Adjutant Fisker som formedelst tilstundende Expedition at negotiere om Fred med Tripoli ikke først kunde udholde denne quarantaine besluttede at gaa derhend uden at oppebie denne Tiid: Jeg skulle altsaa begive mig til LazarettetVI, og derefter søge leylighed til Scicilien eller Neapel som var vanskellig at faae et Skib som ikke resquerte at blive optagen. i denne Urolighed besluttede jeg at gaae med Fregatten til Tripoli saa meget meere som G: A: FiskerVII gav mig det sikkrest Formoning at ville gaa derfra til Italien. Skiebnen vilde anderledes. Vi kom tilbage til MaltaVIII hvor jeg maatte blive i 4 Uger efter at de 18 Dages quarantaine var forbie inden ieg fik leylighed til Palermo hvor jeg var i 4 DageIX. Fra Palermo kom jeg den 1 Februa[r] til NeapelX, hvorfra ieg herved har den Ære at tilskrive Academiet. Jeg har følt i denne Tiid med Smerte hvor ilde de Dage henrante, som kunde været saa kostbare i Rom. jeg vil stræbe at oprette det tabte og at giøre den nyttigste anvendelse af det mit gunstigste Reysestipendium

Neapel d 13 Februar 1797 Underdanist
B. Thorvaldsen

Oversættelse af dokument

Most humble Pro Memoria.

Hereby I take the liberty to inform the Academy of Fine Arts of my place of sojourn and the reasons for the delay in my journey to date.
By the frigate Thetis I went to the Mediterranean thinking that I would be able to get to Italy quicker. The destination of the frigate was Algeria to go there with the presents but in Copenhagen I did not think that there would follow 40 days of quarantine. We came from Algeria to Malta and this quarantine was prescribed us. Aide-de-camp Fisker, who could not endure this quarantine because of the approaching expedition to negotiate about peace with Tripoli, decided to go there without waiting this time. So I was to go to the camp hospital and after that look for a shipping opportunity to Sicily or Naples; it was difficult to get a ship which did not risk being captured. In this turbulence I decided to go by the frigate to Tripoli so much the more as Aide-de-camp Fisker gave me the most assured supposition that we would go from there to Italy. But it was not to be. We returned to Malta where I had to stay for 4 weeks after the 18 days of quarantine were over before I got shipping opportunity to Palermo where I stayed for 4 days. From Palermo I came to Naples February 1st from where I hereby have the honour to write to the Academy. It has given me much pain to feel how ill these days went, they could have been so precious in Rome. I shall strive to make good what has been lost and to make the most useful application of my most favourable travelling scholarship.

Naples, February 13, 1797 Most humbly,
B. Thorvaldsen

[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

Regarding receipt of this letter, the journal of the Academy of Fine Arts of 24.4.1797 (The Danish National Archives, Kunstakademiets arkiv, Akademiforsamlingen, Dagbog) reads: A letter was received from the pensioner and sculptor Thorvaldsen, in which he informed the Academy that he had arrived in Naples after a long and difficult voyage, and that he intended, after a few days, to go to Rome, where he hoped to make up for the delay caused by the voyage.”
The letter reflects Thorvaldsen’s annoyance at having wasted precious time on the long voyage. This agrees with the impression conveyed in the diary of the chaplain of the Thetis, Peder Pavels, where he mentions Thorvaldsen’s impatience with the many delays on their way to Malta, see Pavels’ diary, the National Library, Oslo; published in English in Sørensen & Schirò, op.cit., p. 55 and p. 60.

Document Type

Færdigt egenhændigt dokument

Archival Reference

Rigsarkivet, Kunstakademiets arkiv, Akademiforsamlingen, journalsager, 1797, nr. 4.


Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 100.

Other references




  1. Latin for “in remembrance”, used to recall oneself to somebody. The expression was originally a polite introduction in letters to persons of a higher rank, often civil servants. Gradually it was also used more generally in letters to or from officials, often written in one word. The expression appears frequently in the more formal letters in the Archive.

  2. According to the instructions of the Academy of Fine Arts to Thorvaldsen, dated 23.8.1796, he was to “inform the Academy of his place of sojourn every six months after his departure.”

  3. Because of the war in Europe, Thorvaldsens’s original plan to go by land was rejected. On A.P. Bernstorff’s recommendation, Thorvaldsen got permission from the Admiralty to travel on board the frigate Thetis, which was going on a peace mission to the Mediterranean, see the related article about the Thetis. The frigate was to discharge Thorvaldsen in a suitable harbour, from where he was to make his own way to Rome, cf. Thiele I, p. 47.

  4. Under Captain Fisker the Thetis was on a dual mission: One was to escort the annual “presentskib” (a ship with tributary gifts) to Algiers, and the other was to negotiate peace with the Pasha of Tripoli, see the related article about the Thetis.
    The frigate reacehd Algiers 16.10.1796.
    In the company of members of the crew, Thorvaldsen went ashore in Tripoli 15.11.1796. The experience was recorded in the diary of the chaplain of the Thetis, Peter Pavels. In one passage he describes his concern about being surrounded by ”the Moors and the Turks” as they are called, but he adds that though the desire to do so was great, “I would probably not have dared if Thorvaldsen had not insisted so earnestly.”
    Pavels’ diary, the National Library, Oslo; published in English in Sørensen & Schirò, op.cit., p. 38-39.

  5. When the Thetis first anchored in the harbour of Valletta on Malta 24.10.1796, the Maltese authorities ordered a 40-day quarantine before the crew would be allowed to go ashore. The quarantine was motivated by a fear of the plague. The crew, however, did not go ashore this time because Captain Fisker decided to go to Tripoli before the quarantine had expired. See Pavels’ diary, the National Library, Oslo; published in English in Sørensen & Schirò, op.cit., p. 31; and Thiele I, p. 62.

  6. The camp hospital on the island of Manoel in the harbour of Valletta. People in quarantine against the plague were placed here, and this was where the Danes on board the Thetis were allowed to go ashore during the quarantine. See Pavels’ diary, the National Library, Oslo; published in English in Sørensen & Schirò, op.cit., p. 32-33.
    Thorvaldsen, then, is trying to explain why he did not choose to stay on Malta when he arrived there the first time.

  7. Aide-de-camp Lorens Henrich Fisker.

  8. The Thetis returned to Malta 2.12.1796 and , this time, was put in quarantine until 18.12.1796, only 16 days. After that, a little more than 4 weeks passed – from Sunday 18.12.1796 to Friday 20.1.1797 – before Thorvaldsen finally obtained a passage from Malta to Sicily.

  9. Thorvaldsen was in Palermo for 4 days and 5 nights. He arrived during the evening of 23.1.1797 and left the morning of 28.1.1797.

  10. Thorvaldsen probably arrived in Naples 31.1.1797. He very likely had help from his diary when he wrote this report to the Academy of Fine Arts, but the dates in the diary are mixed up.

Last updated 09.02.2016