2 Giants

On the eastern side of Hljómskálagarður, not far from each other, stand two giants in the cultural history of Icelanders, the contemporaries Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807-1845) poet and Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) sculptor. Jónas’s birthday, November 16, is the day of the Icelandic language. But Jónas was born at Hraun in Öxnadalur, and died of blood poisoning after breaking his leg in Copenhagen in 1845. Jónas moved to Copenhagen in 1832 to pursue university studies, in literature and natural science, and lived in the capital until his death. He was a prolific poet, translator, and did a lot of research on Iceland’s natural history during his short life.

Bertel Thorvaldsen was born in Copenhagen, the son of Gottskálkur Þorvaldsson from Skagafjörður and Karen Degnes from Jutland. Most of his career, or from 1797 to 1838 he worked in Rome, Italy, and was at the time one of and perhaps the biggest name in sculpture in the world. When he came home to Copenhagen in 1838, a museum, the Thorvaldsen Museum, was built for his works next to Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament. Bertel is buried in the garden of the museum.

In Hallargarður, close to Hljómskálagarður, a stone’s throw from Bertel’s self-portrait, you can find the work Adonis, which Bertel made in 1808. The City of Reykjavík made a cast of the statue in 1974, on the occasion of 1100 years of settlement in Iceland.

Bertel’s self-portrait with the statue Voner, is the first outdoor work of art put up in Reykjavík, but the statue was unveiled with a great ceremony in Austurvöllur in 1875. But the statue was Copenhagen’s tribute to the Icelandic people on the occasion of thousand years of settlement in Iceland, the year before. In 1931, Bertel’s self-portrait was replaced by the statue of Jón Sigurðsson by Einar Jónsson and moved to Hljómskálagarðurinn. The statue was made by Bertel in 1839, and a cast of the statue can be seen in Central Park in New York.

The statue of Jónas is by Einar Jónsson and was unveiled in 1907 at Lækjargata, then moved to Hjómskálagarður in 1947

Photographs & text: Páll Stefánsson
16/03/2023 : A7C : FE 2.5/40mm G