The Dance of the Muses on Helicon, after 1844
Executed by Georg Christian Freund under the supervision of H.W. Bissen after the original plaster model 1816, inv.no. A341
Marble. 72,5 x 159,0 cm
Inventory number: A340
On Thorvaldsen’s relief we see the Nine Muses, antiquity’s patron goddesses of the arts and sciences, dancing to the lyre-playing of Apollo. Apollo was the god of light and music, and with his lyre in his hand he was the leader of the Muses. As such he is often shown in light-hearted, cheerful contexts, as is the case in this relief. But at the same time Apollo was the god of disease and death. With his bow and arrows he spread disease among his enemies and vengefully punished anyone who defied him.
This dual nature typifies many of the gods of antiquity, who could be friendly and generous on the one hand, but also cruel and merciless. The people of antiquity could therefore never feel sure of the unpre¬dictable gods, and many ancient myths involved warnings against arousing their ire.
Like the three Graces, the nine Muses are daughters of Jupiter. They live on Mount Helicon in Greece near the fountain of Hippocrene and are the goddesses of artistic inspiration. There is a festival when the god of the sun makes his way past Mount Helicon, and it is just such an occasion that the relief portrays. On a small mound in the middle of the relief we also see the three naked Graces. This is an adaptation of a relief that Thorvaldsen modelled as early as 1804.