The Danish Neo-Classical sculptor Thorvaldsen spent forty years in Rome before returning to his native Copenhagen in 1838. His return, with his sculptures in train, is commemorated in a frieze running around the outside of the Thorvaldsens Museum, which was designed and built by Gottlieb Bindesbøll (1800-1856) and opened in 1848. The first public museum building in Denmark, Thorvaldsens Museum arose out of Thorvaldsen's decision to leave his library, correspondence, drawings, casts and collections to the Danish nation. The museum building responds architecturally to Thorvaldsen's sculpture studio, and specifically seeks to replicate the flow of light through the space. Thorvaldsen himself was closely involved with the project, and was buried here at his death in 1844.
Under the terms of the original gift, nothing can be added or removed to the collection, and, as a result, Thorvaldsens Museum stands not just as a testament to Thorvaldsen's own sculptural work, but also as a rare extant example of a Neo-Classical sculpture collection as it was used for artistic reference. Pieces on display include Greek and Roman sculptural fragments, contemporaneous works and Thorvaldsen's own drawings and sketches.