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Monuments at Sea

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

I am fascinated by the history of marble sculpture and its transportation across the sea before the invention of steam engines when monuments were at the mercy of winds and the ingenuity of experienced sailors.

Murals on the walls of the Thorvaldsen Museum
Monuments at Sea in the 1800s

I recently went through my files, photos, and vintage film, however, only to realize the answer was somewhere in the two terabits of data saved on my phone. While in Copenhagen last August, I several hours photographing and documenting what I saw at the Thorvaldsen Museum. One of the most remarkable features of the museum is the series of murals on the outside walls, which illustrate the return of Thorvaldsen to his homeland after 40 years abroad. These murals were painted by six different artists between 1844 and 1850, and they show how Thorvaldsen's sculptures were transported by ship from Italy to Denmark.

Murals on the walls of the Thorvaldsen Museum
Monuments at Sea in the 1800s

These murals are not only a testimony of Thorvaldsen's artistic legacy but also a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to imagine how it felt to witness such a monumental event. They capture the emotions, the challenges, and the beauty of bringing marble art across the ocean in the mid-1800s. They also reflect the views and styles of Thorvaldsen's contemporaries, who shared his passion for classical culture and aesthetics.

These murals of Monuments at Sea in the 1800s, painted by a host of Thorvaldsen's contemporaries, allowed us to reimagine through the eyes of other artists, what life on on board sailing ships looked like for the works of Greenough, Piccirilli and Edmonia Lewis amongst other sculptors on board The Italian Factor, my latest adventure at sea.

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