Thorvaldsens Museum is one of the most important monuments in the history of Danish architecture. And in the painter Jørgen Sonne’s illustrated frieze on the museum facades, historical scenes are played out for all who pass by. Denmark’s most famous artist, Bertel Thorvaldsen, returned to Copenhagen in 1838 after a long life spent in Rome, and he was received with great acclamation by a colourful gathering of Copenhagen citizens. This is portrayed on the frieze overlooking Frederiksholms Kanal. Facing Christiansborg Palace there is another frieze that shows Thorvaldsen’s works being carried into their new home – Thorvaldsens Museum.
Sonne’s frieze around three of the sides of Thorvaldsen’s Museum is unique in the history of Danish art by virtue of its combination of a portrayal of a particular moment in Danish history and its political implication with the prominence it accorded to the new middle classes that were increasingly making their mark on the country at the time. However, the paintings in the frieze were soon partly spoiled by the wind and the weather, and the entire frieze was renovated in the 1950s under the guidance of the artist Axel Salto. Meanwhile, wind, weather and pollution again made their mark on the frieze and museum facades after the 1950s. So between 2001 and 2008 the facades were once more restored, cleaned and consolidated. The work was supported by the Realdania Foundation and Copenhagen Municipality, and this most recent restoration is an important chapter in the story of the huge work of maintenance that has been undertaken since the museum opened in 1848. “Bulletin of Thorvaldsens Museum 2011” contains a number of articles focusing both on the frieze and on questions relating to restoration techniques encountered as the work has progressed.
In this book, you can also read about two of Thorvaldsen’s favourite motifs, the reliefs Night and Day, and about their literary echoes in the works of Danish writers including Oehlenschläger, Ingemann, Hertz, Winther, Brandes and Drachmann. And the book also includes an account of the museum’s presentational experiment aimed at giving high school pupils an insight into Antiquity, and the off-beat, good-natured new view of Thorvaldsen today represented by the internationally recognised artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset. In addition, one article in the book attempts to discover whether a canon – a governing relationship between measurements – is to be found in Thorvaldsen’s sculpture Jason and the Golden Fleece.
Meddelsleser fra Thorvaldsens Museum has appeared at irregular intervals since 1917, and the complete run represents a basic archival source for a great deal of fundamental research and the presentation of research into Thorvaldsen, his art and his time.
The book has been published with support from the Realdania Foundation, and the 165 closely written and richly illustrated pages can be acquired for no more than DKK 198 in Thorvaldsens Museum.