John Stevens Cogdell

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Brevet er forseglet med rød lak uden kendetegn.


Bertel Thorvaldsen

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Tilskrift: “To Al. Illustrissimo Albert Thorwaldsen. Scultore in Roma Italy.”
Udskrift: “Al: Ilo: / Albert Thorwaldsen / Scultore a Roma / Italia”
Brevet er mærket “To the care of Messs. Pitray & Viel at Havre” og poststemplet ”Le Havre 8 Juin 1832” samt ”Nxtta DentroXXuom”.

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Dateringen fremgår af brevet.


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Dear Sir.
When a Stranger seeks to form a Correspondence, or desires to draw near unto Worth & superior Talents, it is natural to expect something of him corresponding; but Sir, I appear before you without pretensions of any kind, except a warm & sincere heart: relying on time & circumstances, to make their own developement – & on the liberality & nobleness of your Character – as transmitted to all parts of the Globe & by no individual hailed! with more enthusiasm & delight, than by my self. – Being the close friend of the greatest Painter now known, “Washington Allston” my heart has long beat with delightful anticipations of becoming acquainted with the only being whom I rank his Superior in Art – “Mr. Albert Thorwaldsen”. – Our Sensibilities, like our sensitiveness – are acute & therefore for my sake – I pray you, do not let any sudden & unfavorable impression prejudice you agt. me; arising from the very aukward & singular circumstance of an address from one so totally unknown! – When I visited “Canova’s” Studio in 1800. I was young – in bad health – having just finished my studies for the profession of the Law – & not having yet commenced life: nor then did I dream I possessed any power for his Art – nor indeed until a few Years since – & that discovered, this the request of my friend “Allston” that I wd. make an effort. – The last year your Studio was visited by Dr. John Edwards Stolbrook & his Lady – friends of mine: under the Dr. I took my lectures on Anatomy, his Bust was the first I modelled; – after that the Bust of an American Hero, from a portrait of my own painting: – then a fancy head – “Modestia” – next a Bishop of my own Church from Memory – also a great literary Man of our State after death at the request of the Faculty of our Medical College: next I modelled a group abt. 18 or 20 Inches high – the Subject suggested by my friend “Allston” viz. Hagar & Ishmail in the desert. – I managed it thus: The Mother kneels on her left knee – on the right; the head of the languishing Boy rests, She with her right hand, tenderly sustaining it, & a little inclining her person to the left: to resist the pressure of his Weight – her left hand with a part of her flowing mantle about it, raised to her left cheek, she appears taking the last look at her expiring Boy – he is seated and reclining in front of the Mother, his knees drawn so as to be in front the right shoulder is pressed agt. the thigh & leg of the Mother – the hand under his right thigh: the left arm is brought over in repose across the left thigh & finds with the hand agt. the right knee some support for the Body – the right leg & foot pass, under the left leg, by which I have shown all his limbs – read what follows from the Pen of “Allston” who now has the
Group & will exhibit it at the Atheneum in Boston. – “Dear Cogdall, Cumbridge Port, 27 Febr 1832: “It gives me great pleasure that I can bestow sincere praise on yr. group of “Hagar & Ishmail”. It is decidedly yr. best work & much exceeds, what I had expected: it really does you great honor. and though it has a good many faults they are by no means of a kind to outweigh its merits. The attitudes of both Mother & Child are well conceived & they group well together. Perhaps, however the group might have been improved had the Boy’s body been a little farther off. & his head resting where it is: I think it wd. have presented a better Profile view. But its chief merit lies in the general conception & the expression, wh. are certainly the principal points in a work of art. It has indeed great power of expression. The helpless extremity of the Son is very touching, & his physical suffering is affectingly contrasted with that of his Mother. She seems to have just said “let me not see him die” & to be taking a last look: the deep, silent, maternal agony of that look is of no common order. The calmness of her Action too is finely conceived; it is the Effort of one who strives not to look into the fearful future; who stands on the brink of an Abyss, into which she must fall, but will not look. This is indeed great. I will now point out the faults. But You must not be frightened at the list – since they are only the faults of inexperience. the chief is the disposition of the drapery – the lines are too often repeated & too abrupt. 2 the costume, the puffs on the arms & the folds on the breast are modern. 3o. The right shoulder of the Boy is out of its place – it could not be so far projected without dislocation. 4 The Protrusion of his Tongue is not in good taste, further this may be physically true of one dying of thirst – it is one of these unpleasant truths wh. shd. be avoided in Art. 5 The Mothers leg is a little too short. These faults as I have already observed are the faults of inexperience & such as more practice & the Study of good models would very easily enable you to avoid”. After these remarks apprehending from some reports that I meant to go to Italy to follow modelling &c as a profession – “Allston” is warm in his advice against it – unless I had means to reside there for a time without depending on Art for my bread – I replied from the misfortune I had sustained of more than half I owned, this the improper conduct in New York of one pretending to be a friend: I was unable to go to Rome – where I had been Mentally every day of my life since 1800 – that if my Govenmt. wd. be so kind as grant me some appointment – I wd. go immediately, or if my means shd. still be found to answer – this my dear Sir, will be one of the topics I will endeavour to interest you with – because I feel on You all reliance is safe and holy. My partner – the Wife of more than 20 years: & without whom to me life would be a blank; is so passionately fond of the Arts, tho’ exercising them not: that she is ready at a moment to fly with me – to England – France or Italy, the last she prefers: the impressions from so many years repeated later – & recitals & of late the very interesting accounts of talented Artists & chief among them yourself, makes her feel much of my enthusiasm & she is very much delighted with my efforts in modelling, casting & sculpturing: – altho’ I have never yet seen a modeller & altho’ I am whithout experience & all is done “con amore” as an amateur, there being neither Taste, nor liberality, nor demand in this State for anything either in painting or sculpture – beyond a mere miniature or 30 or 40 dollars Portrait – & very few of these. – Altho’ like yourself Protestant I was highly honored as a youth when in Rome – the head of the College of “St. Issidoro” Father James MCormick, met with me & became dearly attached to me and saved my life – when all but gone from the Effects of newly expressed wines – at a vineyard at which we spent the thy with Mr. & Mrs Stone (a Banker) their daughter & Mr & Mrs. Lepré – all these of Rome. but alas! Mr & Mrs. Stone my adopted mother & my dear Father James – now rest from their labors & I trust repose in the bosom of the Saviour. It was my privilege to be introduced to Pope Pius the 7th. by my beloved Father James – my heart young & warm I felt all gratitude. – I procured from one of the prelates at the Palace on Monte Cavallo when I kissed his toe; one of his slippers & my own Mother here (now dead.) made two pair of splendid slippers wh. I sent to the Pope – they were u+. but not until they had been so fumigated at the Lazzarette – in Leghorn, with brimstone & that they were yellow & unfit for public display. a return of kindness was meant & directed to the Popes Consul at Philadelphia, whom I saw afterwards & he informed me the ship had been wrecked. – In the last illness of the same Venerable – Pope Pius the 7th. /1823/ a friend of mine Mr Thomas D. Cendy visited Rome & took a letter to His Holiness from me – to which I red. a reply this the pen of Cardinal Consalvi. – you may yet see that very reply: & all my long correspondence between Father James & myself & Mrs. Stone – & the Popes Slippers. – I have now trespassed too much with what I meant as infallible circumstances to make you feel there are strong inducements again to treat upon the Veil of the “Eternal City” – in the lesser creft of whose celebrated Dome may be found my name, put in with all the power of my own hand – with Pure Knife. – Your friend Mr: Bowman the Painter spent the winter of 1830 & spring of 1831 in this City. we of course became intimate & if his three quarter length of you, is a correct likeness – I shall be able to know you, see you where I may. – Now my dear Sir. to the points – which I hope may draw us near by correspondence or otherwise. – At this time I am the second Officer in the Customs for this place under the appointment of the Government of the United States: this is my chief dependence here – when I yield up this I wd. not be able to calculate at present on an income of more than from Nine hundred to one thousand Dollars per Annum – will you be so good as to give me as satisfactory an opinion as may be in your power – whether with this amount a family of two, with Economy – might reside comfortably in Rome or Florence or Naples ? and have the Mind free from anxieties about support – while it might be permitted to indulge in the Arts of Painting or Modelling &c&c ? all that may occur to you as likely to instruct us on this point you will inform me of: HouseRestorateur Servants &c&c – next is there not good English or American Society with which we sd. hope to become intimate as well as the Italian Society of Rome ? and more important to me than all – shd. I be able to go to Rome – might I indulge in the hope of your friendship & your hints & direction, in that branch of Art to which my mind has so strong a bias – I dare not [papiret mangler] the word Talent, altho’ my dear friend “Allston” has [papiret mangler] Is the travelling from France frequent & is that the most expedeting mode of getting into Italy ? has it of late years been safe ? & how is at this time the tranquility of Rome ? do the political perturbations of Europe disturb the Clay in the hand of the quiet Modeller or silence the secret musick of the Chisel ? When I hear how the Pope is annoyed the following lines come to my Memory: I know they are familiar to you:

”Se a ciascun l’interno affanno,
Si legesse in frento scritto
ZucuXti mai, che invidia fanno
Ci farebbeio pieta.”

Literary townsman Mr. Hugh S. Legare, has been appointed ++ Charge to Belgium, his sister spent her Evening with us recently, all spirits wre. going with her Brother – they will probably visit Rome & Naples, are they not down at Belgium – I have charged her to see you & say all her heart may dictate to pave the way for a favorable reception of us; when we may make ourselves known to you in your Attelier or Studio. – This letter goes by the way of Havre (France) & is to be forwarded by the House of “ Petray & Viel ” & they will pay all possible postage on this & on your reply at Havre; which I beg you will address to their care. – I modelled for the Centennial Anniversary of the birth of the Father of our Country “Washington” – his Bust from the Portrait of my decd. friend “Stuvart” & I venture to say to you, I have never seen in Plaster or Marble a Bust I tilted so much as to resemblance of Washington: I am abt. sculpturing one to send to Philadelphia & if it shall be there approved, the City authorities will patronize it. I have a letter from “Sully” to that Effect.
My Health is at this moment bad – too much confinement to figures & an office the opposite of the studio in its charms for the mind. From the accounts which by the by are rather freely written, by travellers – who think they confer honor, by their ephemeral productions I suspect you and “Allston” & myself – are near of an age – you have I think several years the advantage of us, as you assured by have in every thing Else. – I wish you knew “Allston” you wd. love him, as should one Brother another. – I now reluctantly leave you – & shall anticipate the happiness of receiving a chearing communication from you in French, in Italian or English. I know your kindness to Artists near you – you will not be less so to an amateur & an American. Mr. MorseI is a personal friend of mine I hope you have seen him.

With the greatest veneration for your character & talents, I remain your obede. & humble Sert.

John Stephano Cogdell

of Charleston South Carolina

24 April 1832   United States

Archival Reference

m17 1832, nr. 45


Ikke omtalt hos Thiele.



  1. Den amerikanske maler og opfinder Samuel Finley Breese Morse.

Last updated 10.05.2011