Bertel Thorvaldsen


Bertel Thorvaldsen : biography

19 November 1770 – 24 March 1844

Gallery: Thorvaldsen’s works

Image:Thorvaldsen Christus.jpg|Christus, Church of Our Lady, Copenhagen. Copies exist throughout the world. Image:Christus (Draft) by Thorvaldsen.jpg|Draft of Christus, located in the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen. Miscolored by a fireplace in the sculpting room. Image:Ganymede Waters Zeus as an Eagle by Thorvaldsen.jpg|Ganymede Waters Zeus as an Eagle. Located in the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen. Image:Jasão e o Velo de ouro – Bertel Thorvaldsen – 1803.jpg|Jason with the Golden Fleece. Thorvaldsen’s first masterpiece. Image:Lionmonumentlucerne.jpg|Lion Monument, Lucerne. Image:Pius VII monument.jpg|Monument on the tomb of Pope Pius VII inside the Basilica of St. Peter Image:Thorwaldsen Józef Poniatowski Warsaw 01.jpg|Prince Józef Poniatowski Monument, Warsaw File:Bertel Thorvaldsen – Venus with Apple.JPG| Venus with Apple – Louvre-Lens.


Thorvaldsen was an outstanding representative of the Neoclassical period in sculpture. In fact, his work was often compared to that of Antonio Canova and he became the foremost artist in the field after Canova’s death in 1822. The poses and expressions of his figures are much more stiff and formal than those of Canova’s. Thorvaldsen embodied the style of classical Greek art more than the Italian artist, he believed that only through the imitation of classical art pieces, could one become a truly great artist.

Motifs for his works (reliefs, statues, and busts) were drawn mostly from Greek mythology, as well as works of classic art and literature. He created portraits of important personalities, as in his statue of Pope Pius VII. Thorvaldsen’s statue of Pope Pius VII is found in the Clementine Chapel in the Vatican, for which he was the only non-Italian artist to ever have been commissioned to produce a piece. Unfortunately because he was not a catholic but a Protestant, the church did not allow him to sign his work. This led to the story of Thorvaldsen sculpting his own face on to the shoulders of the Pope, however any comparison between Thorvaldsen’s portrait and the sculpture will show that this is just a fanciful story built on some smaller similarities.Richard P. McBrien:’Lives of the Popes’

His works can be seen in many European countries, especially in the Thorvaldsens 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: an equestrian statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski that now stands before the Presidential Palace; and the seated Nicolaus Copernicus, before the Polish Academy of Sciences building—both located on Warsaw’s Krakowskie Przedmieście. A replica of the Copernicus statue was cast in bronze and installed in 1973 on Chicago’s lakefront along Solidarity Drive in the city’s Museum Campus.Graf, John, Chicago’s Parks Arcadia Publishing, 2000, p. 13-14., ISBN 0-7385-0716-4. A statue of Johannes Gutenberg by Thorvaldsen can be seen in Mainz, Germany.

Outside Europe, Thorvaldsen is less well known.(but see the important paper by Dimmick below). However, in 1896 an American textbook writer wrote that his statue of the resurrected Christ, commonly referred to as Thorvaldsen’s Christus (created for Vor Frue Kirke), was "considered the most perfect statue of Christ in the world." The statue 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 in Salt Lake City, Utah. There is also a replica of this statue in the LDS visitor centers at the Mesa Arizona Temple, the Laie Hawaii Temple, the Mexico City Mexico Temple, the Los Angeles California Temple, the Portland Oregon Temple, the Washington D.C. Temple, and the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. Additionally, the LDS Church uses images of the statue in official church media, such as the Internet site .

Additional replicas of the Christus include a full size replica at the The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland within its iconic dome, and a full-sized copy in bronze at the Ben H. Powell III family plot in Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas as a memorial to the Powell’s son Rawley.

Thorvaldsen’s Christus was recreated in Lego by parishioners of a Swedish Protestant church in Västerås and unveiled on Easter Sunday 2009.

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. A bronze copy of Thorvaldsen’s Self-Portrait stands in Central Park, New York, near the East 97 Street entrance.

Present-day Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø referenced Thorvaldsen’s "Jason" in the novel "The Devil’s Star", where the novel’s detective protagonist is reminded of the statue when investigating a murder which happened in an Oslo apartment with neo-Classical furnishings.


Italian MTV presenter, Pierfrancesco Diliberto, best known as "Pif", is a Thorvaldsen’s descendant.