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April 23, 2007
Thorvaldsen Museum Website
From journal Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden
by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
February 9, 2005
Although not well-regarded and even less known by today’s museum-going public, Thorvaldsen was regarded by his contemporaries as Europe’s finest sculptor. He executed a wide variety of commissions in an heroic style intended to recall the monumentality of ancient Rome for Europe’s elite, perfectly complementing the conservative attitudes that were prevalent among them during one of the most reactionary periods in European history. Although Thorvaldsen was a Lutheran, his finest work is to be found on the tomb of Pope Pius VII in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, although he also sculpted Christ and the Apostles for Copenhagen’s Vor Fruer Kirke. I found the museum’s "Christ Hall," containing the casts for the latter commission, to be the highlight of my visit.
The museum’s neoclassical architecture and its location on Slotsholmen, Copenhagen’s very heart, fittingly depict Thorvaldsen’s role in decorating the key institutions of his native city during its Golden Age and his closeness to those in power. Large galleries at the two ends of the museum contain studies for his more monumental works, while the hallways between them (as well as additional galleries behind these) contains a virtual "Who’s Who’s" of Europe’s key figures from this period. Thorvaldsen’s style, while attractive, can appear monotonous, but the sheer variety of individuals represented, from Bonaparte to Byron, more than compensates for any such dullness. The upstairs galleries contain his collections of antiquities and some of his paintings (including more than a few self-portraits.)
Although regarded by some as a genre sculptor at best and an artistic Talleyrand at worst, Thorvaldsen was, in his time, as monumental a figure as any of his works. The singularly appropriate and attractive manner in which they’re displayed here make the museum a welcome respite from the better known attractions in Slotsholmen (and Copenhagen in general) and an aesthete’s dream. Whether you have an interest in his work or not, however, his frieze in Christiansborg Slotskirke, directly next door, makes for essential viewing. Perhaps appropriately, given the extent to which his reputation has declined since his death, Thorvaldsen’s Museum doubles as his mausoleum–-his grave is located in its courtyard.
From journal The Beauty of Copenhagen
Charlotte, North Carolina
February 5, 2004
Bertel Thorvaldsens was a famous Danish sculptor. Although less well known to most Americans than someone like Hans Christian Anderson, Thorvaldsens played an equally impressive role in the cultural landscape. Ironically, he spent most of his adult life living in Rome. But later in life he returned to a hero’s welcome in Copenhagen where he took his rightful place at the head of the Danish art world at the time. His works and the art that he acquired were all donated to his home city when he died, and the Thorvaldsens Museum was built to house it all.
The first thing I liked about the museum was the location. It is located next to the Gammel Strand along a canal. This is a great part of town to visit for all kinds of reasons (i.e. dining, shopping, sites, museums) so the Thorvaldsens Museum is a nice activity to include in the midst of other things. Secondly, the museum building itself is actually quite interesting. The yellow exterior has a series of murals running around the bottom half of the building. It is a building that calls out to be visited.
As I mentioned in the opening, I like a museum that is not too large. This museum has only three levels. The lower level features the artist's early work plus a small display that describes the technique used by sculptors to create their works. This section of the museum is pretty sparse and I was not sure that I would see much after starting on this level. The second level (which is the level you enter from the street) is simply the museum store and the café level. There isn’t much to do here. It is the top level that really brings the museum to life. Even as you walk up the stairs you feel as though there will be much to see (a very large statue greets you midway up the stairs). As you reach the top, you see long straight corridors with statues and sculptures. If this is all you saw, it would be worth the 30 Krona (roughly $5) admission. But on both sides up the upper floor, rooms house Thorvaldsens' personal art collections.
You will find the following:
- Pottery from ancient civilizations including Athens, Corinth, and Etruria.
- Marble and terracotta sculptures.
- Metal ivory bone and glass items from everyday ancient life.
- Gems (used primarily for putting owners seal on things) and cameos (jewelry carved in positive relief).
- An Egyptian collection of small pieces and sculptures.
- Greek coins from 6th to 2nd B.C.
- Beautiful oil paintings from several artists (portraits, pastoral scenes, religious scenes, etc.).
The museum is closed on Mondays.
From journal Eating my way around Copenhagen