Young Thorvaldsen attended Copenhagen's Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi), winning all the prizes including the large Gold Medal. As a consequence, he was granted a Royal stipend, enabling him to complete his studies in Rome, where he arrived on March 8, 1797. Since the date of his birth had never been recorded, he celebrated this day as his "Roman birthday" for the rest of his life.
Thorvaldsen's first success was the model for a statue of Jason, which was highly praised by Antonio Canova, the most popular sculptor in the city. In 1803 he received the commission to execute it in marble from Thomas Hope, a wealthy English art-patron. From that time Thorvaldsen's success was assured, and he did not leave Italy for sixteen years.
In 1819 he visited his native Denmark. Here he was commissioned to make the colossal series of statues of Christ and the twelve Apostles for the rebuilding of Vor Frue Kirke (from 1922 known as the Copenhagen Cathedral) between 1817 and 1829, after its having been destroyed in the British bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807. These were executed after his return to Rome, and were not completed till 1838, when Thorvaldsen returned to Denmark, being received as a hero.
He died suddenly in the Copenhagen Royal Theatre on March 24, 1844, and bequeathed a great part of his fortune for the building and endowment of a museum in Copenhagen, and also left to fill it all his collection of works of art and the models for all his sculptures very large collection, exhibited to the greatest possible advantage. Thorvaldsen is buried in the courtyard of this museum, under a bed of roses, by his own special wish.
Motifs for his works (reliefs, statues, and busts) were drawn mostly from Greek mythology, but he also created portraits of important personalities, as in his statue of Pope Pius VII. His works can be seen in many European countries, especially in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, where his tomb is in the inner courtyard. Thorvaldsen's Lion Monument (1819) is in Lucerne, Switzerland. This monument commemorates the sacrifice of more than six hundred Swiss Guards who died defending the Tuileries during the French Revolution. The monument portrays a dying lion lying across broken symbols of the French monarchy.
Thorvaldsen produced some striking and affecting statues of historic figures, including two in Warsaw, Poland: the equestrian statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski that now stands before the Presidential Palace the seated Nicolaus Copernicus, before the Polish Academy of Sciences building, and the seated Nicolaus Copernicus, before the Polish Academy of Sciences building, both located on Warsaw's Krakowskie Przedmieście. A replica of this sculpture of Copernicus was recast in bronze installed in 1973 on Chicago's lakefront along Solidarity Drive in the city's Museum Campus. A statue of Johannes Gutenberg by Thorvaldsen can be seen in Mainz, Germany.
Part of Thorvaldsen's work is informed by a pronounced classicist sensibility, traditionally encoded in European art in the myth of Zeus and Ganymede. Illustrative are his Eros, several versions of Ganymede, the Shepherd Boy with Dog, and his bas relief of Hylas and the Nymphs, depicting a shapely Hylas terrified of the nubile nymphs embracing him. Outside Europe, Thorvaldsen is less well known (but see the important paper by Dimmick below). Additionally, his statue of the resurrected Christ, commonly referred to as Thorvaldsen's Christus (created for Vor Frue Kirke) has appealed to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a 3.4 m replica is on display at Temple Square and images of the statue are used in official church media, such as the internet site LDS.org
Thorvaldsen's primary mastery was his feel for the rhythm of lines and movements. Nearly all his sculptures can be viewed from whatever angle without compromise of their impact. In addition, he had the ability to work in monumental size. Thorvaldsen's classicism was strict; nevertheless his contemporaries saw his art as the ideal, although afterwards art took new directions. In short, he is the greatest of the neo-classicist sculptors — more strict a classicist than Sergel but far greater an artist than Canova.
When heroic sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen returned to Denmark after a life largely spent in Rome, C. F. Hansen's royal carriage depot in Copenhagen was converted to house his collections.
Apr 01, 2004; Caption: [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] When heroic sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen returned to Denmark after a life largely spent in Rome,...
Celebrating Denmark's gift to the imagination; A 'consciousness of God's infinite goodness' stood against the dark.(FEATURES)(BOOKS)(Book Review)
May 10, 2005; Byline: Lucie Lehmann-Barclay Readers all over the world have grown up with Hans Christian Andersen's stories such as "The Red...