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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

Thorwaldsen received many orders


While

in Naples Thorwaldsen had been ill, and suffered from a malarial affection, which compelled him to be idle much of the time. But he was always studying the antique statues, and made many copies. Some of the first original works which he attempted were failures, when, at last, he modelled a colossal statue of Jason, which was well received by those who saw it, and made him somewhat famous in Rome (Fig. 118). Canova praised it, and other critics did the same; but Thorwaldsen had no money; the academy had supported him six years; what could he do? Quite discouraged, he was engaged in his preparations for leaving Rome, when Mr. Thomas Hope, the English banker, gave him an order for the Jason in marble. In an hour his life was changed. He was living in Rome not as a student on charity, but as an artist gaining his living. We are forced to add that Mr. Hope did not receive this statue until 1828, and Thorwaldsen has been much blamed for his apparent ingratitude; but we cannot here give all the details of the unfortunate affair.

Thorwaldsen had a true and faithful friend in Rome, the archaeologist Zoega; at his house the young Dane had met a beautiful Italian girl, Anna Maria Magnani, whom he loved devotedly. She was too ambitious to marry a poor sculptor, so she married a rich M. d'Uhden; but she persuaded Thorwaldsen to sign an agreement by which he bound himself to take care of her if she should not agree with her husband and should leave him; this

was just what happened in 1803, and the sculptor received her into his house, where she remained sixteen years, when she disappears from his life. He provided an honorable marriage for their daughter.

[Illustration: FIG. 118.--JASON. _By Thorwaldsen._]

In 1803 Thorwaldsen also made the acquaintance of the Baron von Schubart, the Danish Minister, who presented the sculptor to Baron von Humboldt; and through the friendship of these two men, and the persons to whom they presented him, Thorwaldsen received many orders. In 1804 his fame had become so well established that he received orders from all countries, and from this time, during the rest of his life, he was never able to do all that was required of him. He was much courted in society, where he was praised for his art and beloved for his agreeable and pleasing manner. In this same year he was made a Professor of the Royal Academy of Florence; and though the Academy of Copenhagen expected his return, they would not recall him from the scene of his triumphs, and sent him a gift of four hundred crowns. A few months later he was made a member of the Academy of Bologna and of that of his native city, in which last he was also appointed a Professor.

Many circumstances conspired to increase his popularity and to excite the popular interest in him, when, in 1805, he produced the bas-relief of the Abduction of Briseis, which still remains one of his most celebrated works. His Jason had put him on a level with Canova, who was then at the height of his fame; now the Briseis was said by many to excel the same type of works by Canova, and there is no question that in bas-relief the Dane was the better sculptor of the two. This relief and his group of Cupid and Psyche, which was completed in 1805, mark the era at which Thorwaldsen reached his full perfection as a sculptor. In this same year he modelled his first statue of Venus; it was less than life-size; and though two copies of it were finished in marble, he was not pleased with it, and destroyed the model: later he made the same statue in full size.

In 1806 he received his first commission for religious subjects, which consisted of two baptismal fonts for a church in the island of Fionia. But he was devoted to mythological subjects, and preferred them before all others, and in this same year modelled a Hebe while engaged upon the fonts. His industry was great, but he found time to receive many visitors at his studio, and went frequently into society. At the house of Baron von Humboldt, then Prussian Ambassador at Rome, Thorwaldsen was always welcome and happy; here he met all persons of note who lived in or who visited Rome.


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