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Portraits, Historical, European, Johannes Gutenberg, Silver-plated Plaque, Antique, c. 1900


Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) (after)
Continental or British: c. 1900
Silver-plated relief plaque in Hogarth frame
14 x 9 inches

Standing portrait plaque of Johannes Gutenberg based on the 1837 statue by the renowned Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen in the Gutenberg Plaza in Mainz, Germany. The plaque is silver plated in repousse raised relief, presented in an antique ebonized parcel gilt Hogarth frame, and mounted on faded green linen cloth-covered cardboard. Since there was no portrait of Gutenberg on which to base a likeness, Thorvaldsen portrayed Gurtenberg in the statue dressed as an archetypal 15th-century scholar carrying a copy of the celebrated Gutenberg Bible in one hand. In the other hand he holds type blocks for printing single letters, symbolizing his groundbreaking invention, the movable type printing press. This plaque converts the larger-than-life-size statue to a small relief and omits some details, including the handful of type, instead showing a piece of letterpress type by his foot. It also adds a small projecting base imprinted “Gutenberg.”

Product description continues below.


Johannes Gutenberg (late 14th century-c. 1468) was a German inventor and craftsman who originated a method of printing movable type that incorporated several innovations that forever transformed the production of books and dissemination of texts, making them widely accessible for the first time. The Bible that he produced, the first to be printed by this method, was completed in 1455.

Bertel Thorvaldsen was a prominent Danish sculptor sometimes referred to as the “Scandinavian Michelangelo.” He was admitted as a student in 1793 to the Royal Academy of Sculpture of Denmark. He left in 1796 after winning grand prize in a sculpture competition awarding him three years of study in Italy. He eventually settled for many years in Rome where classical art became great influence, before returning to Denmark later in life. His reputation as one of Europe’s leading sculptors was established in 1812 with Alexander the Great’s Entry into Babylon, a huge one-meter-high and 35-meter-long relief frieze for the papal Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome completed in honor of Emperor Napoleon’s visit to the city. Thereafter Thorvaldsen received numerous commissions for his work throughout Europe: Krakow, Vienna, Rome, and his native Denmark, to name just a few. Today his sculptures and reliefs are in major museum collections around the world, notably Thorvaldsens Museum, which opened in 1848 in Copenhagen, dedicated to his extensive life’s work.

Condition: Generally very good, recently repolished and covered with protective varnish, having light wear, minor dents, some remaining oxidation to metal. Backing cloth and frame with usual overall light wear and handling.


“About Thorvaldsens Museum.” Thorvaldsens Museum. (15 May 2023).

Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 8, p. 298.

“Gutenberg-Denkmal.” Rheinland-Pfalz Gold. (15 May 2023).

Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut E. “Johannes Gutenberg.” Encyclopedia Britannica. (15 May 2023).

Additional information


19th Century