Herman Wilhelm Bissen
Venus tying up her hair, c. 1842
Marble, 180 x 60 x 50 cm.
Inventory number: 0163NMK
Acquired before 1904. Bestowed to the museum in 1908
This sculpture by H.W. Bissen captures an intimate moment where the Roman goddess of love, Venus, is in the process of titivating herself. Wearing only a single piece of garment which has slipped past her waist, the graceful goddess is tying up her hair. Typical of the Classical style, Bissen has depicted the motion of the body with harmony, clarity and balance in mind. The sculpture stands in the Classical contrapposto position, where all her weight is on one leg while the other is bent slightly forward. This pose results in a natural inclination of the hip while simultaneously giving the composition a rhythmic and balanced appearance. The artist was likely inspired by the antique Venus Anadyomene statue, which is still on display in the Vatican today. During his stay in Rome, Bissen sketched a number of detailed drawings of this statue, which has a similar pose to the one by the Danish sculptor.
Herman Wilhelm Bissen (1798-1868)
When Herman Wilhelm Bissen left Slesvig to commence studies at the Danish Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen at the age of 18, it was with the intention of becoming a painter. However, it was sculpting that quickly caught his interest instead, and after having triumphed at the academy’s awarding of medals, Bissen travelled to Rome with the intention of becoming a sculptor. During his time there, he became acquainted with the greatest sculptor of the time, Bertel Thorvaldsen. Bissen would spend his whole life in the shadow of Thorvaldsen’s success, but the two colleagues often worked closely together. Bissen was clearly influenced by Thorvaldsen’s classicist idiom, but in comparison, Bissen’s sculptures often appear more dramatic. Nationalism also left its mark on Bissen’s art, and Bissen found his own style and niche in earnest with subjects such as The Danish soldier from 1850-51.