Portrait Bust of the Honorable Mrs. Pellew [later Lady Pellew]

Bertel Thorvaldsen, Danish (active Rome and Copenhagen) 1770 - 1844

Made in Rome, Italy, Europe



Height (with base): 22 1/8 inches (56.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

* Gallery 293, European Art 1500-1850, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds from the bequest of Walter E. Stait, 1994

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The sitter was on her wedding trip in Rome when this bust was carved by Thorvaldsen, the most admired European portrait sculptor of his day. The artist’s care in creating this work may be due, in part, to the special appeal of Mrs. Pellew’s beauty, which approaches Thorvaldsen’s feminine ideal.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Bertel Thorvaldsen, a Dane active in Rome for much of his career, was the most sought-after portrait sculptor in Europe in the early nineteenth century. This bust was carved when the sitter, a celebrated English beauty, was in Italy on her wedding trip. Thorvaldsen derived the design from ancient Roman portraits, but in this mature work all specific ancient references have been transcended, achieving a natural likeness in contemporary style. The lower contour of the bust corresponds to the neckline of an early nineteenth-century dress, and the coiffure is also in a fashion of the day. The grasp of likeness, linear elegance, and fine granular marble surface are hallmarks of Thorvaldsen's art. But this bust belongs to a rarer category of his work in which the sculptor, inspired by the sitter, attains an image of ineffable ideal beauty. Such timelessness and affecting refinement were among the highest aims of the Neoclassical style of which Thorvaldsen was a leading figure. Dean Walker, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 148.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.