Ridolfo Schadow. Son – Sculptor – Roman

The sculptor Carolus Zenon Ridolphus Schadow – better known under the forename Ridolfo – was born on July 9, 1786. (1) At this time his parents were living in Rome. A short time later his father Johann Gottfried Schadow was appointed Sculptor to the Royal Court and Director of the Academy of the Arts in Berlin.

Ridolfo learned his craft under his father and worked in his workshop. At the end of 1810 he went to Rome. Here he settled permanently and joined the circle of artists around the famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). Within this fruitful environment, and in light of the various inspirations provided by antique works of art in Rome, Ridolfo gradually developed his own formal language.

Ridolfo regularly wrote long letters to his father from Rome. He reported his experiences, visions and the progress of his work. He provided detailed instructions for the sales presentation of his sculptures in Berlin. 200 years ago, on January 31, 1822, he died unexpectedly of a severe lung infection and was interred in the church S. Andrea delle Fratte in Rome.



Ridolfo Schadow went to Rome with his brother, two years his junior, the painter Wilhelm (1788-1862). After their arrival at the beginning of 1811, they took up residence in a number of rooms in the artists’ guest house, Casa Buti. (2, 3) The accommodation was run by the Buti family. Over many decades it was home to artists such as the renowned Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), who would become Ridolfo’s mentor. The painting that Wilhelm Schadow painted of Ridolfo, Thorbaldsen and himself illustrates this close private and professional connection. (6)

Rome provided the young sculptor with an immense amount of inspiration which initially overwhelmed him. He interrupted his stay after less than a year and returned to Berlin for a break. Following his return to Rome he finally received the desired recognition with the success of his free and commissioned works. During his time in Rome Schadow modelled and executed more than 54 busts, bas-reliefs, sculptures and sculpture groups. (4) The most successful were the four figures from the group The Judgement of Cupid.

Ridolfo Schadow’s unexpected early death left a number of his works unfinished. In order to meet the contractual obligations Emil Wolff (1802-1879), the nephew and student of Johann Gottfried Schadow, travelled to Rome. He completed the works begun by his cousin and produced Ridolfo’s tomb. (5)

Sylva van der Heyden