Saturday, June 3, 2017

Copenhagen: Thorvaldsen Museum

In 1796, Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) left Copenhagen for Rome, where he spent most of his artistic life. When he returned for good in 1838, he was such a successful sculptor that he decided to donate his works to his natal city. So they built a big, colorful museum to house his marble sculptures, plaster casts, paintings, and collections of ancient jewelry and coins. Below is one panel from the enormous frieze that envelops three sides of the three-story building, depicting Thorvaldsen's arrival in Copenhagen with all his art. To the left is the impressive main facade; actually, you enter through a door on the side of the building to the right. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the museum is free on Wednesdays, the day we were there. Initially I had planned to stay for only an hour to look at a special exhibit on Eden, before walking a few blocks to the Tivoli Garden. However, the weather was too cool and gray for us to want to spend money at an amusement park; and while the Eden exhibit was a bust, we found the rest of the museum sufficiently interesting to keep us busy for three hours!

The main floor is composed of long corridors with statues around the courtyard where the master is buried. These are surrounded by a series of small rooms--each painted in one bold color, with a patterned, tiled floor, and a brilliant, painted ceiling--containing one sculpture and a few bas reliefs.

It looks like a fun house, doesn't it? The lady on the right is Maria Fjodorovna Barjatinskaja (1793-1858). Apparently the sculpture was finished in 1825 but never delivered, so it came back to Denmark with Thorvaldsen. He died first, and then her. Her family demanded the sculpture but ended up accepting a copy by an apprentice.

I particularly liked this relief because of the nonchalant posture of the man on the far right. You can see how talented Thorvaldsen was in his figurative representations. One half of the second floor consisted of painting galleries grouped by themes. I think the representative one below was "Italian." The half contained Thorvaldsen's original glass cabinets with his curiosities; depicted is part of his Egyptian collection.

This was a neat find that I only chose because it was one of the earliest things to open (10AM). While we were there, Danish school children were completing geometry worksheets in some of the rooms, which echoed with their chatter. So I guess it's familiar to the locals. Dear Husband and I happened to luck upon a short video in the basement the outlined his life and career; but otherwise the museum could do a better job of educating visitors about the artist. Nevertheless, I would recommend the Thorvaldsen Museum to any art-minded foreign travelers.

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