Grand Tour Plaster Intaglios after Bertel Thorvaldsen, c. 1828–44

c. 1828–44
Frame: 26.5cm x 26.5cm
Standard Parcel
£ 220
This item is available to view and buy at:
13A Bangor Road
Six plaster-cast (white gesso) impressions of intaglios after the statuary of Bertel (Albert) Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) in a 20th century walnut box frame. They are fine examples of the souvenirs brought back by Georgians of their Grand Tour to Italy. Goethe himself "owned many thousands of casts [and] told his correspondents years later that no greater treasure could be brought back from Rome."
The intaglios are numbered on the side and were originally part of a larger collection, often presented in a faux book. The Met Museum has examples of these by the nineteenth-century Roman gem engravers Giovanni Liberotti and Francesco Carnasecchi who specialized in making souvenirs of European masterpieces. Three of our intaglios are similar to Carnasecchi’s reproductions of Thorvaldsen’s sculptures (1992.405.1–.35).
The intaglios are in excellent condition given the fragility of plaster, with only slight damage to the top of Cupid and the dog. They are wrapped in their original gilt paper and displayed on a royal blue felt background.
During the early 19th century, Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1848) was considered the greatest sculptor in Europe. Admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School at the early age of eleven, he went on to study the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Arts, and a year later went to Rome on a scholarship. He remained in Italy until 1838, where he incorporated the styles of ancient Greece and Rome into his own work. In doing so, he became one of the leaders of the Neoclassical movement, which spanned the 18th and 19th centuries. His fame and reputation led to commissions from public and private patrons across Europe, including Czar Alexander I.
The larger intaglio (6.5x6cm) shows Alexander the Great’s triumphal entry into Babylon at the head of the Macedonian army. Alexander is depicted in a four-horse chariot driven by Victory. It comes from a stucco frieze, 32 metres in length, ordered by Napoleon I in 1813 for a room in the Palazzo Qurinale at Rome. Marble versions also exist in the Villa Carlotta at Cadeabbia on Lake Como and in the Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen.
The second large intaglio features Cupid and a dog, a symbol of fidelity (6x5cm). The smaller ones show:
Ganymede with Jupiter‘s Eagle, 1817 (2.2x2cm). In Greek mythology the boy Ganymede was carried up into the sky, to the home of the gods on Olympus to be the gods’ taster. According to legend it was Zeus, in the shape of an eagle, who took the boy from Phrygia.>
Hercules and Hebe, 1808 (3.8x4cm). Hebe is the goddess of youth. Here she is pouring the draught of immortality for Hercules, who is recognized by his club and the lion’s skin on which he is sitting.
A Genio Lumen, c. 1828 (3cm). Art is depicted by a woman drawing with poetry and music represented by the scrolls and the lyre. A boy with the angel’s wings is the genius bringing illumination or inspiration.