The portrait of the sculptor Thorvaldsen is a striking record of the celebrated Dane as an old man (he was in fact to die the following year). Amerling painted this portrait during his second stay in Rome and must have finished it around autumn of 1842. Thorvaldsen, who left Rome on 1 October of that year, appears to have added his own signature to the picture before the paint had dried. As in Lampi’s Portrait of Antonio Canova (GE 356), we also encounter here an impressive personality, albeit not one conveyed through expansive gesture. Rather, we have the sense of an individual turned in upon himself, who has found inner peace at the end of a lifetime’s labours. The subject is depicted so as to eschew any outward expression, in a manner that might be described as ‘private’ (with all the connotations this term had for the Biedermeier Era) and without any celebration of his profession. Distracting details have been dispensed with, and one can sense the relationship established between the painter and his sitter. More than any of the other numerous portraits of Thorvaldsen, this picture confronts the spectator with the subject’s character: melancholy appears to be the dominant emotion, and this had indeed found its reflection in the often extreme reserve, even lifelessness, of his sculptures.
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Friedrich von Amerling
Portrait of the Sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), 1843
Oil on canvas
height 103 cm, width 81 cm
Signed and dated at lower left: F. Amerling 1843 Signed, above this, by the sitter: Thorvaldsen
Inv.-No. GE353
Provenance: acquired in 1845 from Amerling by Prince Alois II von Liechtenstein
Further works on display
Lost in her Dreams, 1835
Portrait of the Painter Peter Fendi (1796-1842), 1833
Portrait of the Future Prince Johann II von Liechtenstein (1840-1929) on a White Pony, 1845
Oil sketch for the Portrait of the Future Prince Johann II von Liechtenstein (1840-1929) on a White Poney, 1844/1845
Portrait of Princess Marie Franziska von Liechtenstein (1834-1909) at the Age of Two, 1836
Portrait of Princess Karoline von Liechtenstein (1836-85) at the Age of One and a Half, 1837
Portrait of Elise Kreuzbereger, 1837
Study of the Head of a Bearded Man
Portrait of Princess Sophie von Liechtenstein (1837-99) at the Age of about One and a Hall, 1838
Self-portrait, 1880/1881
Portrait of Prince Victor Odescalchi (1833–1880) in Greek costume at the age of five, 1838
Girl with Straw Hat, 1835
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