Thorvaldsen, the son of a wood carver, showed an early talent for drawing and was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, aged eleven. In 1796 he set off for Rome where he was to remain until 1838. He was praised by the great Italian neoclassical sculptor Canova and excelled at producing marble figures from classical mythology. He also sculpted portrait busts and panels in low relief. Thorvaldsen left his collections - comprising the plaster models for his sculptures, and paintings, drawings and antiquities - to the Danish people. Thorvaldsens Museum, built to display these collections, opened in 1848 as the first public museum in Denmark.