Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770 - 1844)
Epitaph for Johann Philipp Bethmann-Hollweg
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1770 - 1844
Having already been recognized as an artist of great talent at the age of eleven, Thorvaldsen trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. In 1793 he was awarded the Academy’s major gold medal along with a scholarship which enabled him to undertake a three-year period of study in Rome. He arrived there on 8 March 1801, and from then on celebrated that date as his birthday. Rome’s classical statues had a lasting effect on his style and determined the direction his art was to take. After the enthusiastic reception given to his statue of Jason, executed in 1802/03, he received a deluge of commissions from all over Europe. He met this demand by making plaster and terracotta models for works that were then carried out in marble by his studio, in which he sometimes employed as many as forty sculptors. During Antonio Canova’s lifetime Thorvaldsen was regarded as his equal, and after Canova’s death he was considered the most gifted sculptor of his age.