Bertel Thorvaldsen

Nineteenth Century Bust of Lord Byron

About this artwork

'Mad, bad, and dangerous to know', Lord Byron was the archetypal romantic hero - poet, adventurer, rebel and revolutionary. Byron's taste for the exotic was first forged during his Aberdeen childhood, where he read 'all travels or histories, or books upon the East I could meet with ...'. As a young man, his Grand Tour ranged as far as Constantinople, and inspired his first great narrative poem, Chi/de Harold's Pilgrimage {1812). He later moved abroad permanently, living and writing in Italy for a number of years. His continued fascination with the East later led him to join the Greek struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire, and he died of sepsis while preparing to lay siege to the fortress of Lepanto.

Thorvaldsen's portrait bust shows the young poet shortly after his return to Italy in 1816. It was recognised as a fine likeness, though Byron, conscious of his image as a tortured genius, complained that he wanted to look unhappier.

Bertel Thorvaldsen

Bertel Thorvaldsen