Thorvaldsen Biography and Drawings

Scope and Content

Three volumes.

Volumes one and two are drawings by various artists of sculptures by Thorvaldsen, probably made for J M Thiele's biography. Some of the drawings are signed but many are not, and may have been made by students. Many also appear to have been copied from other drawings rather than the original sculptures. Not all of the drawings in these volumes were published; of these unpublished originals the most notable are probably two drawings of Thorvaldsen's houses in Rome.

Volume three is a volume of notes in English by Sarah Rowan, who produced the first English biography of Thorvaldsen following Thiele's work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Karl Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen (1766 or 1770 - 24 March 1844) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was the son of an Icelandic wood-carver who had settled in Denmark and he studied at the Copenhagen Academy. He was awarded a travelling scholarship and arrived in Rome in 1797, where he lived for a large part of his life. Thorvaldsen was inspired by the Italian enthusiasm for classical sculpture and the success of Thorvaldsen's model for a statue of Jason (1803) attracted the attention of the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova, launching his internationally successful career. He visited Denmark in 1819 and it was during this visit that he was commissioned to create some of his most famous pieces, the statues of Christ and the Apostles for Vor Frue Kirke (the Copenhagen Cathedral). He finally returned from Rome with the finished works in 1838 and settled in Copenhagen. In 1839 work began on a Neoclassical museum in Copenhagen which was designed to house Thorvalden's collection of artworks and models, with which he endowed a large part of his fortune. Thorvaldsen died in 1844 following an illness; he is buried in the courtyard of the museum.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Just Mathias (J M) Thiele (13 December 1795 - 9 November 1874) was a Danish author and art historian. He compiled the first biography of Thorvaldsen, having saved the latter's records and papers after his death in 1844. The biography (in Danish) was a 4-volume work with many plates of illustrations of Thorvaldsen's sculptures. The original drawings for these plates were collected into the two volumes here. Sarah Rowan was the first to produce an English translation of the biography, and bought the drawings from Thiele so that new plates could be produced for the English edition. It is not known how these items came to be at UCL.