Bertel Thorvaldsen

Sender’s Location



Herman Schubart

Recipient’s Location


Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af brevudkastet.


Thorvaldsen apologizes for not having been in contact with regard to the commission for a monument to the victory of the United States over Tripoli.
He has completed the busts of Herman Schubart, A219, Jacqueline
, A220 and A.P. Bernstorff, A207. The Dance of the Muses on Helicon, A705, is half finished, but he has not yet received the marble for Baptismal Font, cf. A555,1. He has also made some portrait busts in order to get money, but he has financial problems and asks Schubart for help.


Ron   Rom d 8 Agust Rom d 8 Agust 1806
De Deres Eccellenza MasrI Basrelief

Jeg blues ved at have tiet saa længe, og ej før at have har opfyldt min Pligt og Skyldighed at besvare Deres til mig saa udsigelig kiære SkrivelseII; som jeg har været saa udheldig at tabe, af min lommeIII Jeg bar Deres Brev hos mig for at vise ZoëgaIV og LundbyeV det, troende at faae hos Dem nogen Efterr[e]tning om den Amerikanske Krig for derefter at giøre en EdeVI til det Monument som De har været saa God at recomandere mig, og har ved denne Leælighed været saa udheldig, at tabe samme, jeg har trodt at finde det igen men forgeves. Dette har forøget bidraget endnu mere til min seævanlige Efterladenhed i at skriveVII, og xxx bønfalder Deres Eccellenza tilgiv mig min Skrøbelighed med Deres seævanlige Godhed
Deres tre BysterVIII har jeg frædigIX og har vellet sende inpakke dem i [xx]mm[xx]X i Den Kasse som Hr Baron HumboldtXI sente Dem; men da det havde sinne Vanskeligheder og det faldt mig siden ind at Deres Eccellenza formodelig vel lade Dem og Deres Gemainde Byste formeXII, saa var det nok best at lade det giøre her i Rom hwor man har Gode FormatoriXIII, og derfor vel oppebie Deres bestemmnelse heraaver
Deres Basrilief med MuserneXIV er nesten halvfærdig, til DaabenXV har jeg ennu ikke Marmor men haaber snart at bekomme det, og saa skal det blive sat i Arbjede.
Jeg har ikke giord noget Nydt siden jeg tog fra Deres E[xellence]XVI undtagen nogle BysterXVII for at faa pingeXVIII til at kunde udføre de hos [mig] bestilte Arbeæder, da jeg ikke kan hæve mere føenXIX de bliver færdige og derfor maae bede Deres Eccellenza vil have den godhed at forstrækkeXX mig med nogetXXI saasom jeg er i stor forlegenhed. Det Brev De gav mig til Hr. PappianiXXII for at hæve den GratificationXXIII af Directionen for Fonden ad usos publi[cos], har jeg efter Deres Forlangende ikke afgivet
Jeg ønsker at Den fortreffelige Luft paa det yndige MonteneroXXIV maae helbrede den gode unge MatthæiXXV som den har helbredet migXXVI, Det giør mig inderlig undt at jeg ikke har kundet profetere af Deres Venskabelige inbydelse, saasom jeg søger at tilendebringe mine Arbejder saa snart som mulig for derefter at Rejse tilbage til KiøbenhavnXXVII, da her engenXXVIII fremmede kommer og alsaa engen bestellen kan vendes som kunde interessere mig.

Oversættelse af dokument

Ron   Rome, August 8th Rome, August 8th 1806
Yo Your Excellency Masr Basrelief

Sir, Your Excellency,
I blush at having been silent for so long, and not earlier to have having fulfilled my obligation and duty to answer your so unspeakably dear letter to me; which I have been so unfortunate to lose, out of my pocket. I carried your letter on me to show it to Zoëga and Lundbye thinking that from them I could get some information about the American war then to make an idea for the monument for which you have been so kind as to recommend me, and I have on this occasion been so unfortunate as to lose the same. I have thought that I would find it again but in vain. This has increased contributed still more to my usual negligence to write, and xxx I beseech Your Excellency, forgive me my frailness with your usual kindness.
I have finished your three busts and have wanted to send pack them up together in the crate which Baron Humboldt sent to you; but as there were some difficulties and it later occurred to me that Your Excellency most likely would have your and your wife’s busts cast in plaster, then it would probably be best to do it here in Rome where there are good Formatori, and therefore await your decision about this.
Your bas-relief with the muses is almost half finished, I still have no marble for the Baptism, but hope to get some soon, and then it will be put in hand.
I have not made any new works since I left Your E. except some busts to get money to be able to execute the works commissioned from me, as I can not draw any more until they have been finished and that is why I must ask Your Excellency to be as kind as to advance me some [money] as I am in great financial difficulties. The letter you gave me for Mr Pappiani to draw the reward from the fund ad usos publicos, I have not handed over according to your demand.
I wish that the excellent air at the lovely Montenero may cure the kind, young Matthäi as it has cured me, I am sincerely sorry that I have not been able to profit from your friendly invitation, since I shall try to finish my works as soon as possible and after that return to Copenhagen, as no foreigners come here and so no commissions can be expected which would interest me.

[Translated by Karen Husum]

Document Type

Egenhændigt udkast

Archival Reference

m28, nr. 32


Gengivet hos Thiele II, p. 60-61.

Other references




A207 A.P. Bernstorff, 1804 - marts 1806, inv.nr. A207
A219 Herman Schubart, Tidligst juni 1805 - marts 1806, inv.nr. A219
A220 Jacqueline Schubart, august 1805 - marts 1806, inv.nr. A220
A705 Musernes dans på Helikon, juni 1806 - 1807, inv.nr. A705
A555 Kristi dåb, Tidligst juni 1807 - Senest 1808, inv.nr. A555,1
A851 Christoph August Tiedge, Antagelig 1805 - 1806, inv.nr. A851
A852 Elisabeth von der Recke, Antagelig 1805 - 1806, inv.nr. A852


  1. It is unclear what relief Thorvaldsen is referring to here. The word seems incomplete.
    Other incomplete words and repetitions indicate that this is a draft.

  2. I.e. Schubart’s letter of 14.2.1806.

  3. It is not known whether this actually happened, or whether it was just a white lie. Thiele II, p. 54 suggests the latter because Thorvaldsen did not want to accept the commission mentioned in Schubart’s letter. The commission – a sketch for a war monument for the United States – came to nothing as far as Thorvaldsen was concerned, see more about this in 14.2.1806.

  4. The Danish archaeologist Georg Zoëga.

  5. The Danish diplomat Henrik Vilhelm Lundbye.
    In his letter of 14.2.1806, Schubart had recommended Thorvaldsen to talk to Lundbye about the commission for the monument to the victory of the United States over Tripoli because Lundbye was consular secretary and chargé d’affaires in Tunis 1804-10. However, in 1805-06 Lundbye stayed in Italy.

  6. In Schubart’s letter of 14.2.1806, Thorvaldsen was asked to make a sketch for a monument to the victory of the United States over Tripoli in the so-called First Barbary War, which took place in 1801-05.

  7. Throughout his life, Thorvaldsen was very reluctant to write letters himself – probably because of his dyslexia – and he often had help from others, see more about this in Thorvaldsen’s Spoken and Written Language, or the subject heading Thorvaldsen’s Unwillingness to Write.
    Schubart knew the problem all too well. E.g. he wrote in letter of 30.9.1805: “…I know that he would rather model two groups than write a letter”.

  8. The three bust were the marble portraits of Herman Schubart, A219, Jacqueline Schubart, A220 and A.P. Bernstorff, A207.
    Schubart had commissioned the busts of himelf and his wife during Thorvaldsen’s stay at Montenero during the summer of 1804.
    The bust of Bernstorff was commissioned already in 1803, cf. letter of 12.11.1803 from Schubart to Thorvaldsen.

  9. Dvs. færdig. Bogstavombytning synes at være et karakteristisk udslag af ordblindhed, se mere herom i Thorvaldsens tale- og skriftsprog.

  10. Antagelig: sammen, se Sass, op. cit.

  11. The German linguist and diplomat Wilhelm von Humboldt.
    This crate from Humboldt to Schubart is not known.

  12. Dvs. afstøbe i gipskopier.

  13. I.e. moulders.

  14. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s relief The Dance of the Muses on Helicon, A705. The relief was never finished.

  15. I.e. Thorvaldsen’s Baptismal Font, cf. A555,1, which was finished in marble 22.10.1808.
    See more about this work in The Baptismal Font for Brahetrolleborg Church.

  16. Thorvaldsen stayed with the Schubarts at Montenero until 11.9.1805.

  17. It is not known what busts Thorvaldsen is referring to. However,
    Else Kai Sass, op. cit., p.128 & 132 thinks that it is the two portraits of the poets and friends Elisa von der Recke and Christoph August Tiedge. Both were portrayed by Thorvaldsen during their stay in Rome 1805-06.
    Their busts exist in two versions – one in the so-called colossal size and one in normal size.
    Today the portrait in normal size of von der Recke is known in the original plaster, A879, and the marble version of it, A869, while the colossal bust is only known in marble A852. The portrait of Tiedge is only known in colossal size– the original plaster, A851, and the marble version of it, A240, while the location of the portrait bust in normal size is unknown.

  18. Dvs. penge.
    Der er tale om en slags lydskrift, og stavefejlen er antagelig (igen) et udslag af Thorvaldsens ordblindhed og hans lavkøbenhavnske sociolekt, se mere herom i Thorvaldsens tale- og skriftsprog.

  19. Dvs. førend.

  20. Dvs. give penge, se betydning 1.2. af forstrække i Ordbog over det danske Sprog.

  21. Schubart immediately sent Thorvaldsen a bill of 100 scudi, see his next letter of 15.8.1806.

  22. I.e. the Roman banker Domenico Pappiani.

  23. On 6.3.1804 Thorvaldsen received an extraordinary reward of 300 rix-dollars from Fonden ad usus publicos.

  24. The Schubarts’ summer residence Montenero, in the hills of the same name ca 8 kilometres south of Leghorn.
    The air was undoubtedly better there because of the proximity of the Ligurian Sea and the relative high altitude.

  25. This may be the German painter Friedrich Matthäi or his brother, the sculptor Ernst Gottlob Matthäi. At this time, they were both staying with the Schubarts in Tuscany, see Schubart’s next letter of 15.8.1806.

  26. In 1803-04, Thorvaldsen was seriously ill with hemorrhoids and consequent constipation, see more Thorvaldsen’s Illness 1803-04.

  27. As is well known, Thorvaldsen did not return to Copenhagen in 1806 or the years immediately after.
    However, it it surprising that he was considering leaving Rome at this time. He had tried to solve the problem himself by asking Nicolai Abildgaard in Copenhagen to further the process concerning the commissions for Christiansborg, which Thorvaldsen would be able to execute in Rome. See his letter of 18.6.1806 and also his cohabitant, C.F. Høyer’s letter of 18.6.1806.
    A commission for works, however, did not arrive until 31.12.1806 from C.F. Hansen.

  28. Dvs. ingen.

Last updated 27.07.2018