Denmark’s 19th-century superstar
TEXT: SIGNE HANSEN | PHOTOS © SARAH COGHILL AND THORVALDSENS MUSEUM
As one of the 19th century’s most famous artists, the artworks of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen can be found in museums all over the world. However, only one museum shows the entirety of his talent: Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen.
Built and funded by the people of Copenhagen in 1848, Thorvaldsens Museum stands as a monument of love and admiration for the artist and his work. The museum was designed by Thorvaldsen’s close friend, Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll. “The museum is Denmark’s oldest, and the building itself is a piece of art,” says Maria Horn Rasmussen, PR and communications manager at Thorvaldsen Museum. “All the floors and ceilings are hand-painted and decorated; it’s an explosion of colours, and in the midst of it you have Thorvaldsen’s art and the artist himself – he’s buried in the courtyard, surrounded by his art.”
Born in 1770, Thorvaldsen grew up in Copenhagen in poor circumstances. However, he was admitted to Denmark’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts at a young age, and later given a scholarship to work and study in Rome. Doing so for 40 years, he became one of the most famous artists of his time, known not just for his incredible talent and Neoclassical marble sculptures, but also for his enlightened views.
“Thorvaldsen believed in the French ideal of liberty, equality and brotherhood, and his talent along with his equalitarianism – he insisted on shaking hands with everyone in a room – made him quite the superstar of his time,” says Rasmussen. His dedication to equality was also the reason why Thorvaldsen, before his death in 1944, chose to donate his work to the people of Copenhagen.