Undoubtedly Denmark’s most notable sculptor. He is known for leading the Neoclassical movement throughout Europe and creating masterpieces for the Pope, Napoleon, and other wealthy and royal families.
Thorvaldsen was born in Copenhagen in 1770. Despite growing up in poor circumstances, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Academy of Art at the age of eleven. In 1797 he was awarded a stipend to travel to Italy, where he continued to study, work, and live for most of his life. Today, his works can seen all across world in major art museums such as the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Eremitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin, and of course, the Bertel Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen. His most notable works include the tomb monument for Pope Pius VII in St Peter's Basilica, Rome, and his Christus statue, along with the accompanying statues of the twelve apostles. Be sure to check them out at the Vor Frue Kirke in Copenhagen!
Designed by Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll, the Bertel Thorvaldsen museum lies on the small island of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen next to Christiansborg Palace. Funds for the museum were gathered upon Thorvaldsen’s heroic return to Copenhagen in 1837, and the building was constructed from 1838-1848 - becoming Denmark’s first Museum! Like Thorvaldsen’s work, the museum’s architecture was largely inspired by Greek Architecture and is adorned with Egyptian motifs. The museum wraps around an inner courtyard, where Thorvaldsen’s tomb lies. A visit through the museum allows you to enjoy Thorvaldsen’s work against bold colored walls and ornate ceiling and floor mosaics. In addition to Thorvaldsen's sculptural pieces, visitors can also admire the impressive personal art collection of Thorvaldsen.
The roof of the museum features the goddess Victoria riding in triumph with her team of four horses - a symbol for the fame Thorvaldsen achieved throughout his life, and his celebratory return to Denmark. The sculpture was modeled by Thorvaldsen’s student, Herman Wilhelm Bissen, from a sketch by Thorvaldsen himself, which was donated to the museum by King Christian VII.
Thorvaldsen had no birth records, so he later decided to celebrate his "Roman Birthday", the date of his arrival in Rome (March 8th, 1797) each year!