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Thorvaldsen: Collector of Plaster Casts from Antiquity and the Early Modern Period (Hardback)

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Art > Art History

Imprint: Aarhus University Press
Pages: 828
Illustrations: Illustrations, color
ISBN: 9788771843590
Published: 1st May 2020
Casemate UK Academic



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The Danish neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), who lived most of his life in Rome, was not only one of Europe’s most soughtafter artists; he was also a collector. In addition to his own works and drawings, he built extensive collections of paintings, prints, drawings and books – and of ancient artefacts from Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquity: coins, lockets, containers, vases, lamps, fragments of sculpture and more. He also acquired a large collection of plaster casts, primarily after ancient sculptures and reliefs, but also of works dating from the Renaissance and up until his own lifetime. Thanks to Thorvaldsen’s bequest to the city of Copenhagen, his birthplace, all of these collections are still largely intact and well preserved at his museum.


Home to a total of 657 plaster casts, the Thorvaldsen Museum’s cast collection is unique for several reasons: The collection offers us insight into the sculptor’s working methods and the development of his work because it served a clear function as an image bank of forms, motifs and subjects for Thorvaldsen’s own endeavours. Furthermore, the dual fact that the collection is so well preserved and was established over a relatively brief period of time makes it a valuable example illuminating the trade and distribution of plaster casts during the first half of the nineteenth century. These areas of study form the central focal point of Volume I of this publication. Volume II contains a catalogue of the individual objects in the cast collection, while Volume III collects the overviews, inventories, concordances and primary sources referred to in the first two volumes.


Arising out of many years of study of Thorvaldsen’s cast collection conducted by their author, the classical archaeologist Jan Zahle, these books contain comprehensive source material from the period, much of it previously unknown.

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