[ Thorvaldsens Museum]

Thorvaldsens Museum

In 1839-48, what is now the oldest, and possibly the finest, museum building in Denmark, was built alongside Christianborg Palace. The architect, Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll, transformed a former carriage house into a monument to the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and his life's work. Thorvaldsen lived in Rome for more than 40 years, and was one of the most acclaimed artists of his time. In 1838 he bequeathed his works and art collections to his native city of Copenhagen. The brightly coloured museum houses more than 400 of Thorvaldsen's works, a comprehensive collection of paintings and a collection of antiques. The museum facade bears Jørgen Sonne's frieze of the reception given to Thorvaldsen by the people of Copenhagen in 1838.

Bigger than Elvis

  • Story written by: Simon Ostenfeld Pedersen
  • Time / Periode 1839

Others may possibly have exceeded his posthumous fame, but in his lifetime, the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen was undisputedly Denmark's biggest superstar. Thorvaldsen was especially popular in Italy. His meteoric rise to fame in Italy started in March 1797 when he arrived in Rome on a travel bursary from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. This was a day he celebrated for the rest of his life as his 'Roman anniversary'. Life in the art capital spurred Thorvaldsen's budding talent, and soon his sculptures were receiving attention throughout Europe. Clients were queuing up, and the Danish artist opened several workshops in the city, where he took commissions from the great and the good. His fame was so widespread that the Pope himself visited Thorvaldsen's studio in 1826. There was intense competition around the celebrated artist, and he was showered with medals and awards, made an honorary citizen and professor of several European cities. Denmark worked to bring the famous Dane home, and succeeded in 1838, when he was given a royal welcome in Copenhagen. But if he was to appear alongside the King, a last check had to be made that he was not wearing more medals than His Majesty. When Thorvaldsen died, the Danish capital built an outstanding building in tribute to its homegrown prodigy, and one worthy of a national celebrity. Here the artist's sculptures were displayed in exquisite interiors with frescoed ceilings and unique mosaic floors. The museum still exists, its eponymous star buried in the middle of the courtyard.

Hero's welcome for homecoming artist

  • Story written by: Camilla Mordhorst
  • Time / Periode 1838

In the middle of the afternoon on 17 September 1838, the frigate Rota berthed in the port of Copenhagen, with her precious cargo of Thorvaldsen and most of his works. People sailed out to meet them: one person fell overboard, able-seamen raised their oars in salute and Hans Christian Andersen waved as Thorvaldsen returned to walk once again on Danish soil. The works were carefully hoisted ashore and transported away by carriage. All the great and good of Copenhagen's artistic golden age appear to have turned out. Yet the painter Jørgen Sonne also depicted the absentees. Poets, artists and politicians are portrayed. Sonne's depiction is not only of a grand civic event, but also of the new prominence of the middle-classes who shaped the culture and politics of 19th century Denmark.

Read more about Thorvaldsens Museum at 1001fortællinger.dk