Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), little known today, was the most famous European sculptor in the decades following Canova’s death (1822). In 1797 Thorvaldsen traveled on a fellowship from his native Denmark to Rome, and there he remained for over forty years. “Thorvaldsen quickly became Rome’s most admired artist,” wrote Rosenblum and Janson, “and his studio, with its display of original plasters, was a pilgrimage goal for countless prominent visitors as well as aspiring artists.” (Nineteenth-Century Art).
Thorvaldsen produced more than 90 freestanding sculptures, over 150 portrait busts, and some 300 reliefs in marble and bronze. To classical archeologists (you know you’re out there), he’s familiar as the man who did the original restorations of the sculptures found at the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina. The restorations have since been removed, which is certainly better for the historical accuracy of the sculptures (Thorvaldsen was an artist, not a student of Archaic Greek art), but a loss for the history of classical studies and the history of 19th-century sculpture.
The plaster originals for many of the sculptor’s works are in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen.
This sculpture shows Thorvaldsen as a sculptor, wearing a workman’s shirt, leggings, and slippers, and holding a chisel and mallet. His elbow rests on one of his own sculptures, a figure of Hope. On the pedestal appear copies of two of his best known reliefs, Night and Day.
Someone one asked Thorvaldsen which of his sculptures he considered his best. "My next one," he replied.