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    Sale 2045

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    6 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 33

    Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

    Le Baiser (Moyen modèle dit Taille de la Porte)

    Price Realised  


    Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
    Le Baiser (Moyen modèle dit Taille de la Porte)
    signed 'A. Rodin' (on the right side of the base); inscribed with foundry mark and dated 'Georges Rudier.Fondeur.Paris ©c by musée Rodin 1965'(on the back of the base).
    bronze with dark brown patina
    Height: 33¼ in. (84.5 cm.)
    Conceived in 1880-1881 and cast in 1965

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    This work will be included in the forthcoming Auguste Rodin catalogue critique de l'oeuvre sculpté currently being prepared by the Comité Rodin at Galerie Brame et Lorenceau under the direction of n Le Baiser, Rodin captured the sensuality and excitement of Jerôme Le Blay under the archive number 2008-1785B.
    In Le baiser, Rodin captured the sensuality and excitement of forbidden love that resonated with audiences in the late nineteenth century and has remained extremely poplar with artists and art lovers ever since. Rodin was awarded a commission in 1880 to create bas-relief decorations for the door of the future Musée des Beaux Arts. Inspired by the epic words of Dante's La Commedia, Rodin created several artistic masterpieces for this portal, known as La porte de l'enfer, (fig.1).

    In Canto V of the Inferno, Dante and Virgil descend into the second circle of Hell where they meet the real-life medieval Italian tragic lovers, Paolo and Francesca. Francesca da Rimini's father arranged for her to wed Gianciotto Malatesta in a political union to end hostilities between the two families. The groom's younger brother, Paolo, was sent to advise Francesca. After meeting, they fell in love. Tricked into marriage, Francesca pursued Paolo until they were discovered and stabbed to death by Gianciotto's rapier. Although many artists have illustrated their love, Rodin chose to depict the scene where the two lovers first discover their feelings, capturing the passion and tenderness of their eternal kiss.

    The present sculpture portrays an energy and vibrancy of a loving kiss that has become iconic. Albert Elsen has written that, "In The Kiss Rodin was still trying to show the official art world that he could compose with the best if the Prix de Rome winners. In fact, he not only outdid them in the sincerity of the lovers' expression of mutual awareness and love, he even revived an old gesture of sexual appropriation be having the more assertive Francesca sling her leg over that of the hesitant Paolo" (in The Gates of Hell by August Rodin, Stanford, 1985, p. 85).

    La porte de l'enfer in its entirety took many years to complete and Rodin presented the component figures as they were ready in order to publicly demonstrate his progress. However, several of these works began to take on lives of their own. The Francesca and Paolo group first appeared in the 3rd maquette of La porte de l'enfer and remained until 1886. Rodin removed it when he decided the subjects were too blissful and seemed incongruous with the apocalyptic drama of the composition. Without a context and no direct references within the now independent composition to the story of Francesca and Paolo, it became known simply as Le Baiser. Le Penseur, which was originally a representation of Dante himself, became an independent sculpture for similar reasons. Characteristically, Rodin was primarily concerned with the physical embodiment of his artistic expression rather than making a direct poetic reference or creating specific characters. He stated that, "The body is a casting bearing the imprint of the passions" (Rodin quoted in Rodin at the Musée Rodin, Paris, 1997, p. 34).

    Rodin received a commission of 20,000 francs to create a larger-than-life marble version of Le Baiser from the French government. When Le Baiser was finally exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1898, some critics were shocked by the nudity, but overall the sculpture met with great success and quickly acquired its popularity and renown that it holds to this day.

    (fig. 1) Auguste Rodin, La porte d'enfer, Musée Rodin, Paris. BARCODE 25995145


    Musée Rodin, Paris.
    Private collection, New York (acquired from the above, 1965).
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2008.


    G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, p. 58, no. 166 (marble version illustrated).
    C. Goldscheider, Rodin, sa vie, son oeuvre, son héritage, Paris 1962, p. 49 (marble version illustrated).
    A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, p. 62 (another cast illustrated, p. 63).
    B. Champigneulle, Rodin, London, 1967, pp. 162-163, nos. 78-79 (marble version illustrated).
    R. Descharnes and J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 131 (marble version illustrated in color).
    I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 100 (marble version illustrated, pls. 54-55).
    L. Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, London, 1970, pl. 49 (marble version illustrated).
    J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, pp. 72, 90 and 108 (marble version illustrated, p. 77).
    J. de Caso and P.B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture, San Francisco, 1977, pp. 149-152 (another cast illustrated, p. 148).
    N. Barbier, Marbres de Rodin: Collection du Musée, Paris, 1987, p. 184, no. 79 (marble version illustrated, p. 185).
    F.V. Grunfeld, Rodin, A Biography, New York, 1987, pp. 187-90, 221-22, 260, 262, 275-276, 281-282, 342, 373-374, 400, 457 and 577.
    D. Finn and M. Busco, Rodin and his Contemporaries: The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection, New York, 1991, p. 60 (another cast illustrated; detail of another cast illustrated, p. 61).
    R. Masson and V. Mattiussi, Rodin, Paris, 2004, p. 40 (marble version illustrated in color, p. 41; terracotta version illustrated in color, p. 42).
    A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of the Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 159-163, no. S472 (another cast illustrated, pp. 158; another cast illustrated again in color, p. 159).