The present ivory casket is adorned with Thorvaldsen’s model of Ganymede with Jupiter’s Eagle. Thorvaldsen’s marble version of this, measuring 93.3cm. high, is in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen (inv. no. A44). This model, executed in 1817, is celebrated for Thorvaldsen’s interest in texture: the young boy’s smooth supple skin contrasts with the Eagle’s downy body, comprising built-up layers of feathers. Its sharp curled claws and defining curved beak add further formal contrast to the boy, whose soft curls and limp hat frame his pure, unblemished face, while a robe of gentle ruffles lies at his feet.
Thorvaldsen was known for his reliefs as well as his sculptures; the reliefs decorating the present casket are reminiscent of his L'autunno and L'estate in the Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen (see Grandesso, op. cit., p. 104). Thorvaldsen tended to mix reliefs with statuary when working on a grand scale, such as his Monument to Karl Philipp von Schwarzenberg, Monument to Pio VII and Monument to Ercole Consalvi (illustrated in Grandesso, op. cit., pp. 171, 215 and 217).
Miniaturising the Ganymede model and applying Thorvaldsen's specialist combination of sculptural techniques to a portable and decorative ivory casket speaks of the status of the owner, whose means and tastes stretch to experimentation with the preeminent Thorvaldsen.
S. Grandesso, Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), Milan, 2010, pp. 128-131
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