Portrait of the Sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen other

  • Artist: Jacob Munch
  • Creation date: (1811)
  • Object type: Painting


Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), one of the most celebrated artists of his time, stands in front of a window with a view of the Coliseum and the Arch of Constantine in Rome. Thorvaldsen, who had been made a knight of the Order of the Dannebrog in 1810, is seen here wearing the medal on his dark-blue ceremonial garb with its cape and cummerbund.

Window views behind the sitter, which create a dialogue between the exterior and interior spaces, had been common in Northern Italian painting ever since the sixteenth century. It was also usual for aristocrats who were in Rome as part of their Grand Tour of Europe to be depicted in front of famous Roman monuments.

The modelling stand by the window is a natural attribute for Thorvaldsen. He received his initial instruction at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and won the academy’s gold medal already in 1793. A few years later he received a bursary and travelled to Rome, where he copied Greco-Roman sculptures in plaster casts and marble. The sculpture to the right in the portrait is a miniature version of his breakthrough work Jason with the Golden Fleece (1802–03).

Jacob Munch originally trained to be an engineer, before attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and then living in Paris 1807–08. Prior to settling in Christiania in 1814, he spent a year travelling around Europe in 1811, during which time he executed this portrait in Rome. The painting suggests that Munch was inspired here by the clear, balanced compositions and linear style of the French painter Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825). Thorvaldsen’s relaxed pose, intent gaze, dynamic three-quarter profile, and fashionably combed-down curls provide for an idealized, almost heroic portrait of the artist.

Text: Frode Haverkamp

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0


Jacob Munch


Born 09.08.1776, death 10.06.1839

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Billedhuggeren Bertel Thorvaldsen (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret oppklebet på treplate
  • Width: 110 cm
  • Height: 140 cm
Motif - type:
Kjøpt 1979
Inventory no.:
Part of exhibition:
Tidsbilder. Norge 1814, 2014
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Lathion, Jacques