Thorvaldsens Museum, which opened in 1848 and is situated behind Christiansborg Slotskirke (the Palace Church), was the country’s first art gallery. The famed Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844) spent more than 40 years living and working in Rome. Toward the end of his life, however, he returned to Copenhagen and left his entire body of work as well as his collection of paintings to the city. The collection is currently housed in the former coach house of the palace together with other gifts from Frederik VI and Christian VI. With a Jørgen Sonne frieze on the exterior and mosaic flooring within, the structure is interesting enough to explore on its own. Depending on the season or time of day, the museum’s large windows are designed to let light into the spaces in a variety of ways, making each visit different.
Thorvaldsen produced an astonishing amount of work, even though some of his creations took him up to 25 years to finish. Classical mythology-inspired sculptures, busts of prominent contemporary figures like the English poet Lord Byron, massive studies of Christ, and a variety of self-portraits are among the artist’s works. The museum also features relics from Thorvaldsen’s personal collection of Greek, Egyptian, and Roman antiquities as well as some of his paintings and sketches.