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Substantial Grants for Innovative Art Historians

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded DKK 4 million over 4 years for the research project The Work of Bertel Thorvaldsen – Sources and Context, and DKK 1.371 million over 2 years for the project The Vertical City.

Two talented researchers receive the first Novo Nordisk Foundation Investigator Grants in Art History Research.

The two projects selected for grants are completely different artistically, but both have great potential to produce knowledge of an international calibre. One project will focus on sculptor Bertel Thorvalsen, and the other will examine the architecture of the vertical city. In awarding the grants the Foundation wishes to encourage the type of in-depth research necessary to enable Danish art history to compete internationally.


Thorvaldsens Museum has a veritable treasure trove of knowledge on Thorvaldsen: 9500 texts spanning the years 1770 to 1850 – letters, diary entries, tributes, poems, invitations, recommendations and many more that have been compiled, digitized and published at

The full overview is lacking, however, but this is about to change in a project that will bring the buried raw material to life. Four art historians will finely comb all the texts and assemble the threads in a rich tapestry of people, events and circumstances that surrounded the sculptor. For many, Thorvaldsen represents the epitome of Denmark’s Golden Age, but he was also an international star with a prominent agenda.

Ernst Jonas Bencard, Project Manager and art historian at Thorvaldsens Museum, says: “Thorvaldsen is a wonderful example of the important role of art in society. He was an evangelist for freedom and democracy, and his art and museum were a very important influence in the intellectual re-education of Danes from submissive individuals in a monarchy to free individuals in a democracy.”

The Foundation has awarded DKK 4 million over 4 years for The Work of Bertel Thorvaldsen – Sources and Context.


The other project the Foundation is supporting is The Vertical City, which will examine how skyscrapers contribute to urban architecture and how this is becoming increasingly necessary. The power architecture of the past spread horizontally and took up space, whereas skyscrapers are no longer rooted in a society in which wealth is based on the yields from large tracts of land.

We say that houses “sit”, whereas towers and skyscrapers “stand”. They disrupt the scale of cities by catapulting themselves away from the city. It is necessary to examine what skyscrapers do to cities and how people experience them. The project will survey the concepts associated with this type of building and also the shape that cities adopt when their axes are tipped on end.

Anders Troelsen, Project Manager and Associate Professor, Department of Art History, Aesthetics & Culture and Museology, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, says: “The project will compare very different types of cityscapes into which skyscrapers have been inserted or that the skyscrapers themselves have created. Ultimately, this will contribute to elucidating which cities are habitable so that we do not merely live with them but also in them.”

The Foundation has awarded DKK 1.371 million over 2 years for The Vertical City.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has supported art history research through project grants for more than 30 years. The new Investigator Grant supplements the Foundation’s existing art history project grants.


Ernst Jonas Bencard, Thorvaldsen Museum, [email protected], +45 3336 0122

Anders Troelsen, Department of Art History, Aesthetics & Culture and Museology, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, [email protected], +45 2320 4514

Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, [email protected], +45 3067 4805