Friday, September 18, 2015

A Religious Revelation at the Thorvaldsens

Thorvaldsens's Ganymedes and Jupiter
Breaking up the walking tour was a trip into the Thorvaldsens Museum, which I did eventually find.  And yes I did have a religious revelation there, but this religious revelation is safe for Christians, atheists, agnostics and alternative faith traditions alike.

This is a museum housing the work of noted neoclassical Danish scuplture Bertel Thorvaldsen.  He worked during the height of the neoclassical era, 1796 to 1838.  His works are displayed throughout Europe.

Below is a tour of the museum's photographable collection.  The clean works are marble;  the "dirty" ones are aging plaster.  I use "dirty" in the sense of stained and discolored, even though the Roman gods and goddesses he sculpted were enamored of clothing.  So I guess it could be "dirty" in the prurient sense, too but that's not what I'm saying.

That is one of the most bored looking Mercurys I have ever seen.  The Scandinavian ennui weights heavily on him.

This is Ganymedes pouring the cup of immorality that is given to those who earn god-like status in Roman methodology.  Hmmm.  Drinking from the cup to achieve eternal life.  Yes, that does echo in Christian theology, but that's not the religious revelation that I am referencing.

This is Mars and his kid, Cupid.

This is one of Thorvaldens's more reknowned works, notable for the juxtaposition of Mars's sword in the hands of the Love God, and Cupid's dinky little arrow in the giant paws of the War God.  Here's a side view.

And here's the same statue, in plaster.

The plasters were molds from bronze castings.

Cupid and Psyche.  Looking like two drunk kids.  Captured right before Psyche drinks the cup to achieve eternal life.  Ooops.  I mean immortality, since I'm working the Roman mythology side and not in Christian theology.

Speaking of Christian theology.  So what was the religious revelation?

I give you:  Thorvaldsen's iconic Christ.  Th.  Thorvaldsen's iconic is is probably his signature work.  And it was so reknowned in its day that it changed the very way that Christ was presented in art.

So I think this answers the mystery of why so many artistic renderings depict the clearly semitic Jesus with Northern European features.  I think the answer is Thorvaldsen.  Him and his Nordic Christ.  There.  That wasn't so painful of a religious revelation, now was it?

I'm not an art historian, not even on an amateur basis, so this could be bunk.  But I need evidence to the contrary to recant this position.

Thorvaldsen's Christ is deep in the museum.

Apostles to his left.

Apostles to his right.

And Peter in right, closest to the Christ.


  1. apostles to the left of me...
    apostles to the right...
    here I am stuck in the middle with you...

    (smile- great blog Mr. Spretnak)

  2. apostles to the left of me...
    apostles to the right...
    here I am stuck in the middle with you...

    (smile- great blog Mr. Spretnak)