Bertel Thorvaldsen

(Karl Albert) Bertel Thorvaldsen (November 19, 1770 – March 24, 1844) was a Danish sculptor of international fame, who spent most of his life in Italy.

Thorvaldsen was born in Copenhagen into a Danish/Icelandic family of humble means, and was accepted to the Royal Danish Academy of Art when he was eleven years old. Working part-time with his father, who was a wood carver, Thorvaldsen won many honors and medals at the academy. He was awarded a stipend to travel to Rome and continue his education.

In Rome, Thorvaldsen quickly made a name for himself as a sculptor. Maintaining a large workshop in the city, he worked in a heroic neo-classicist style. His patrons resided all over Europe.

Upon his return to Denmark in 1838, Thorvaldsen was received as a national hero. The Thorvaldsen Museum was erected to house his works next to Christiansborg Palace. Thorvaldsen is buried within the courtyard of the museum. In his time, he was seen as the successor of master sculptor Antonio Canova. His strict adherence to classical norms has tended to estrange modern audiences. Among his more famous works are the statues of Nicolaus Copernicus and Józef Poniatowski in Warsaw; the statue of Maximilian I in Munich; and the tomb monument of Pope Pius VII, the only work by a non-Italian in St. Peter’s Basilica.