Bertel Thorvaldsen was a Danish sculptor and medalist of international fame, who spent most of his life in Italy. Thorvaldsen was born in Copenhagen into a working-class Danish/Icelandic family, and was accepted to the Royal Danish Academy of Art at the age of eleven. Working part-time with his father, who was a wood carver, Thorvaldsen won many honors and medals at the academy. He was awarded a stipend to travel to Rome and continue his education.
In Rome, Thorvaldsen made a name for himself as a sculptor. Maintaining a large workshop in the city, he worked in a heroic neo-classicist style. His patrons resided all over Europe.
Upon his return to Denmark in 1838, Thorvaldsen was received as a national hero. The Thorvaldsen Museum was erected to house his works next to Christiansborg Palace. Thorvaldsen is buried within the courtyard of the museum. In his time, he was seen as the successor of master sculptor Antonio Canova. His strict adherence to classical norms has tended to alienate modern audiences.