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Thorvaldsen and the Universal Church

From March 28, 2007 to January 20, 2008

The monumental statue of Christ, mortar from the masonry around Raphael’s grave in the Pantheon and the secretive Order of Freemasons. This exhibition presented a broad narrative describing the religious motifs in Thorvaldsen’s opus and his major ecclesiastical commissions.

The chronology of the exhibition

A little more than 50 years separates Thorvaldsen’s (1770-1844) earliest and last works treating Christian and churchly motifs. The exhibition covered the period from an early study of a motif from The Acts of the Apostles (for the relief that gained Thorvaldsen the Academy of Fine Arts’ big Gold Medal in 1793) to the bust of the German theologian and reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) that Thorvaldsen was still working on the very day of his death, 24 March 1844, at the age of 73. The exhibition displayed the whole range of Thorvaldsen’s works that had to do with Christianity and the Church. This was achieved through a choice selection of drawings and models by Thorvaldsen, supplemented with documents, old editions of the Bible and paintings from Thorvaldsen’s own collections.

Christ in white marble

The most important works in Thorvaldsen’s interpretation of Christian motifs are to be found in Copenhagen’s cathedral, the Church of Our Lady. In 1820, Thorvaldsen was commissioned to ornament the church with statues of Christ, the twelve apostles and a baptismal angel. A little less than 20 years later the sculptural programme was completed and was consecrated on Whit Sunday 1839. In the course of time the 3½-meter-tall Christ became one of Thorvaldsen’s best-known, and for many people the statue became the very image of Christ. Today it stands in churches and places of worship all over the world.

The exhibition was arranged by curator Margrethe Floryan.

Hvide Krist
The statue of Christ. Plaster.
Rome 1821.

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