Bertel Thorvaldsen

Bertel Thorvaldsen is one of the most famous sculptors in Denmark. His work was clearly inspired by classiscal Greece and Rome. Amongst his most famous works is the relief King Priam of Troy supplicates Achilles for his son Hector’s body (1815), Jason with the Golden Fleece (1828), the sculptures in Copenhagen Cathedral (1821-4), including statues of Christ and the Apostles, and the sepulchre of Pope Pius VII (1824-30) in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Thorvaldsen was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen aged 11 because of his exceptional talent for drawing. The painter Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard became his mentor at the Academy and, through him, Thorvaldsen gained access to the highest social circles in the country.Together with the sculptor Johannes Wiedewelt, they moved the young Thorvaldsen towards Classicism.

In 1796, Thorvaldsen travelled to Rome where he was to carry out the best work of his life. This was to make him one of the greatest sculptors of the time. From the early years in Copenhagen until his death, Thorvaldsen executed a large number of portraits; at first as medallions, later as busts. The busts were chiefly life-size and had a common expression; the aim was probably the ideal representation but at the same time they had individual features observed precisely.

Thorvaldsen returned to Denmark in 1838, after 40 years in Rome. The models for his works, his collections of paintings and objects from Antiquity were presented to Copenhagen. Between 1839 and 1848 Thorvaldsen’s Museum was erected next to Christiansborg Palace.