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Jason with the Golden Fleece

Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen


On 24 October 1800, Thorvaldsen wrote a letter to the Danish Academy reporting on his progress:

“‘At the moment I am working on a nude, life size figure that represents Jason who decides to return to the ship after he has recovered the golden Fleece, which he is carrying on his left arm, while holding a lance in his right hand’.”
Cited in Stefano Grandesso, Bertel Thorvaldsen 1770-1844 (Milan: SilvanaEditoriale, 2015), 22. 

In an 1805 letter to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, August Wilhelm Schlegel wrote about Jason:

“‘A calm and harmonious vigor emanates from the noble figure, which betrays not the slightest effort. The pose has a grace that I would define gymnastic; and as a whole the statue expresses a proud nonchalance, that lack of awareness of its own grandeur and perfection which is peculiar to the heroic age’.” 
Cited in Stefano Grandesso, Bertel Thorvaldsen 1770-1844 (Milan: SilvanaEditoriale, 2015), 30.


Antonio Canova was impressed with Thorvaldsen’s Jason when he saw it in the Danish sculptor’s studio in Rome:

“This work of this Dane is created in a new and monumental style.”

Cited in Erik Moltesen, Thorvaldsens Museum (Copenhagen: Rasmus Navers, 1938), 82.


Erik Moltsen explains the differences between Thorvaldsen's sculptures and Canova's as expressions of national temperament: 

But besides being the first purely Neoclassical statue, complete and refined, Jason was also the first decisive expression in sculpture of that era’s distinctly Germanic interpretation of Neoclassicism. One might find it strange to think that there is anything at all Germanic to be found in this nude Greek hero and his cold, exquisite marble face; it is in the comparison of Thorvaldsen to Canova, however, that the explanation lies. We will see time and again, in what follows, how Canova and Thorvaldsen were played up against each other by their contemporaries, such that the Southerners – the romance peoples – championed the former, while the Germans and Nordics, for that matter also the English – the Germanic peoples – rallied themselves increasingly around the latter. Much of what strikes us as 'Baroque' in Canova’s work results simply from the southern European heritage of his sensibilities: his countrymen, after all, saw his work as quite convincingly classical. “Noble Simplicity and Quiet Grandeur” was hardly the Italian way. Although in other periods it had not been the Danish way either, for a German it was the indisputable motto of Germanic classicism."

Erik Moltesen, Thorvaldsens Museum (Copenhagen: Rasmus Navers), 1938, 90.

Similar Subjects by Other Artists:

Underworld Painter, Jason Bringing Pelias the Golden Fleece, 4th c BCE Greece. (Louvre, Paris)

About the Artist

Born: Copenhagen, 13 November 1768
Died: Copenhagen, 24 March 1844
Nationality: Danish