Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location



Kunstakademiet, København

Recipient’s Location


Information on recipient

Udskrift: À L’Accademie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture & Architecture à Copenhague
Tilskrift: Til det Kongelege Maler Belledhugger og Bygnings Academie

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevet.


Thorvaldsen reports to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts that he has studied Rome and its surroundings. He has copied classical works and finished one marble bust and begun carving another. He intends to model a group of Bacchus and Ariadne, A1. He tells the Academy where his lodgings and his workshop are located.


Underdanigst Pro MemoriaI

Efter min InstruxesII Bydende hver siette Maaned at melde det Kongelige Academie met Opholdsted m:m: er det ieg herved ærbødigst giver mig den Frihed at endberette at ieg lever vel og Arbeyder med al muelig Flid. De mange MerkverdighederIII som her er har giort at ieg ikke strax kunde ligke haand paa Arbeydet, førrend ieg havde giort mig bekint med de vegtigste Ting i Rom og de omliggende ByerIV. ieg har anvent endel af min Tiid med at CoppereV efter adskillige af de formemmest Anteker, har tillig Forfærdig en Byste i MarmurVI og Begynt paa en andenVII. i desse Dage agter ieg at begynde at Udførre en Gruppe af Baco og AriadneVIII som e eeg her har komponert: saa ieg haaber at kunde snart have den fornøelse at skekke Academiet noget ledet [lidet] af mit Arbeyde.
Mit Loges er for nerverrende Tiid paa hiørnet af Strada BabuinaIX og den lille gadeX som gaaer til Theaterret Aliberti, hvar ieg har met VerstedXI i Nerheden. For Resten søger iag og skal fremdeles stræbe at giøre den Anvendelse af met Ophold her som er overenstemmemde med men [min] bestemmelse og den mig af Academiet Givne Instrux.

Rom d: 5e. Januari: 1798
Bertel Thorvaldsene

Oversættelse af dokument

Most humble Pro Memoria.

According to my instruction saying that every six months I must inform the Academy about my place of sojourn etc. I hereby most humbly take the liberty to inform you that I am well and work with all possible diligence. The many objects of interest have had the effect that I could not get down to work until I had become acquainted with the most important things in Rome and the surrounding towns. I have spent much of my time copying several of the noblest antiques, besides I have made a bust of marble and started on another one. These days I intend to do a group of Bacchus and Ariadne which I have composed here. So I hope soon to have the pleasure of sending the Academy a little of my work.
My lodgings are for the present at the corner of Strada Babuina and the small street which goes to the Aliberti Theatre, where I have my workshop in the vicinity. Otherwise I endeavour to use and still strive to use my stay here as stipulated in my scholarship and the instruction given to me by the Academy.

Rome, January 5th, 1798
Most humbly,
Bertel Thorvaldsen

[Translated by Karen Husum]

General Comment

Regarding receipt of this letter, the journal of the Academy of Fine arts of 26.2.1798 (The Danish National Archives, Kunstakademiets arkiv, Akademiforsamlingen) reads: “From the student, sculptor Thorvaldsen a letter arrived dated Rome, January 6th, in which he reports on his situation and his studies etc.” The academy secretary’s dating of the letter 6.1.1798 must be a mistake.
Apart from minor spelling differences this letter is identical with Thorvaldsen’s letter of 20.1.1798 to the Academy of Fine Arts. As both letters today are in the archives of the Academy of Fine Arts in Danish National Archives, they must both have been sent to and received by the Academy. A likely explanation of this could be that Thorvaldsen sent both letters because of the uncertain postal services in war-torn Europe.
The present version of the letter of 5.1.1798 has probably been sent by itself, cf. the recipient’s address in French on the front of the letter (see above under Recipient). The other version of the letter of 20.1.1798 may – because of the recipient’s address in Danish – have been sent inside another letter to Denmark or possibly carried by someone.
It is, however, natural to put forward the idea that Thorvaldsen sent the version of 20.1.1798 enclosed in a fair copy of the draft of ultimo 1797 to Nicolai Abildgaard (see the general commentary to this draft and Thiele I, p. 123). At any rate, Thorvaldsen used this practice of sending his letters to the Academy and Abildgaard together on later occasions, see e.g. his two letters of 12.10.1799 or, similarly, of 4.4.1800.

Document Type

Færdigt egenhændigt dokument

Archival Reference

Rigsarkivet, Kunstakademiets arkiv, Akademiforsamlingen, journalsager, 1798, nr. 18.


Gengivet hos Thiele I, p. 123.



A225 Tyge Rothe, 1797, inv.nr. A225
A208 A.P. Bernstorff, 1797, inv.nr. A208
A1 Bacchus og Ariadne, 1798, inv.nr. A1


  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. Thorvaldsen’s instructions of 23.8.1796 from the Academy of Fine Arts ordered him to “inform the Academy of his place of sojourn every six months after his departure.”

  3. I.e. the sights of Rome.

  4. For example, Thorvaldsen went on a walking tour at the end of December in the company of Carl Ludwig Fernow and others, to Albano, Genzano, Velletri, Cori, Palæstrina and Tivoli, see Thorvaldsen-chronology.

  5. It must be assumed that Thorvaldsen here is referring to drawn copies because there are no known marble copies of antique sculptures until after 1799, as e.g. Homer, A751. The most natural procedure would probably have been that he practiced his marble carving skills from the beginning of his stay in Rome by copying antique sculptures, but Thorvaldsen started by carving an “original” work, the bust of Tyge Rothe, A225. Cf. Else Kai Sass: Thorvaldsens Portrætbuster, vol. I, Copenhagen 1963-65, p. 36.

  6. Thorvaldsen’s first Roman work in marble, the bust of Tyge Rothe, A225, see draft of end of 1797 to Abildgaard: “In the meantime, I have now almost finished Rothe’s bust …”

  7. Thorvaldsen’s bust of A.P. Bernstorff. The original model is in Thorvaldsens Museum, A208, while the marble version is at Brahetrolleborg.
    Cf. also the draft of end of 1797 to Abildgaard, in which Thorvaldsen writes that the bust of Bernstorff is being carved.

  8. Thorvaldsen’s sculpture group Bacchus and Ariadne, A1, which was sent to Copenhagen in 1798, cf. Transportation of Thorvaldsen’s Artworks to Copenhagen 1798 and 1802.

  9. According to Friedrich Noack: Das Deutschtum in Rom seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters, Leipzig 1927, p. 594, Thorvaldsen’s exact address was Via Babuina 119, see the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Residences.
    The workshop mentioned had, according to Thiele I, p. 108 formerly been used by the English sculptor John Flaxman.
    When Thorvaldsen writes “for the present”, it may be because he knew that he would have to move before long. At any rate, the census paper from March 1798 shows that he had moved to Via Felice/Sistina 25, 3rd floor (during the 1800s the name of the street was changed to Via Sistina) just opposite the Uhden family (see Friedrich Noack: ‘Thorvaldsens Geliebte’, in: Deutsche Revue, December 1900, vol. 25, p. 311).

  10. I.e. Vicolo Aliberti.

  11. See the related article about Thorvaldsen’s Workshops.

Last updated 09.02.2016