The two foundations Augustinus Fonden and A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal have generously decided to support a research centre in Thorvaldsens Museum, the aim of which is to study the written sources relating to Bertel Thorvaldsen’s work. The two foundations have together allocated DKK 7,627,646 for a four-year research project that will occupy four scientific members of staff and two students. This is an unusually large research grant to a Danish museum.
The sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) was the most famous Dane in the first half of the 19th century and is among the best known Danish artists of all time. Books and articles on him are regularly published and his works are frequently included in exhibitions both in Denmark and abroad, but despite this continuous production of scholarly works on him the thousands of primary written sources relating to his work have never been systematically researched. They have been kept in the Thorvaldsen Museum archives and have only been used in their entirety by a small number of researchers. The systematic exploration of this goldmine has long topped the museum’s wish list, and with the magnificent grants made by these two foundations it will now be possible to undertake this huge task.
This source material constitutes the foundation for our knowledge of Thorvaldsen’s life and work and, among other things, consists of letters to and from relatives, friends, outstanding representatives of European culture, princes, aristocrats, artists, art lovers and figures buying or commissioning his work. In addition, there are official documents, recommendations, poems in honour of the artist, reviews, articles, diary entries, invitations, lists of works and books, workshop accounts, notes etc. Most of the original documents are in the actual Thorvaldsens Museum archives, but copies of relevant source material in other archives in Denmark and abroad are also to be incorporated into the project.
The results of this research project will regularly be made available in the museum’s extensive and user-friendly digital archives on the internet: http://brevarkivet.thorvaldsensmuseum.dk/en. Thorvaldsens Museum has here published some 8000 transcriptions of original documents from Thorvaldsen’s day, but by far the greatest number of these have at the moment not been studied.
The aim of the scientific treatment of the archival documents is to extract and make available the knowledge relating to Thorvaldsen’s works that the material contains. The work will not only result in numerous new discoveries, but will also extend and revise the basis on which our understanding of Thorvaldsen work is founded. The project aims to reinstate his work and ensure it of its rightful place in the context of international art history. In addition, it will be possible to chart the many ramifications of Thorvaldsen’s contacts with the European political and cultural elite as an important contribution to the understanding of his activities.
When the project has been completed, the museum will have built a beacon in the history of Danish art. The Internet archive will in future be unchallenged as the outstanding work of reference relating to Thorvaldsen, constantly generating new research, giving all those interested an insight into an important historical period and not least documenting why and how Bertel Thorvaldsen stands as one of the great contributors to Danish and international art and culture.