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Bertel Thorvaldsen

The Apotheosis of Napoleon


Bertel Thorvaldsen
Copenhagen 1770 – Copenhagen 1844


The Apotheosis of Napoleon


About 1830




95 x 70 x 46 cm


Ben Weider Collection, inv. 2008.415


Western Art

As famous in Northern Europe as a modern Phidias, Thorvaldsen was the most important neo-classical sculptor of his day, together with Canova, his only serious rival. The Danish-born Thorvaldsen spent long periods in his studio in Rome. He had remarkable success there, obtaining commissions from private individuals and from the government, most notably for the tomb of Pope Pius VII in the Basilica of Saint Peter. In 1829 the Scot Alexander Murray, passing through Rome, commissioned him to create a portrait bust of Napoleon, who had died eight years earlier. His legend continued to grow. The Danish sculptor created a monumental work in his typical neo-classical style, a skilful combination of austerity and archaism. The Emperor is idealized, majestic, borne up by the eagle of victory and the palm branches of glory, motifs taken from the repertory of antiquity. This bust is one of five marble copies of the original, which is kept in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen.

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