• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1995

    Impressionist And Modern Art Day Sale

    7 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 326

    Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

    Minotaur

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
    Minotaur
    signed and numbered 'A. Rodin 3/8' (on the top of the base); inscribed with foundry mark '.Georges Rudier. .Fondeur.Paris.' (on the left side of the base)
    bronze with brown patina
    Height: 22 1/8 in. (56.2 cm.)
    Length: 24 in. (61 cm.)
    Depth: 24¼ in. (61.6 cm.)
    Conceived circa 1883-1885; this bronze version cast circa 1985-1986


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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 Jérôme Le Blay under the archive number 2007NV1065B.

    In Greek mythology, King Minos of Crete asked the gods for a sign visible to all confirming his position of favor. In response to his request, Poseidon caused a great white bull to emerge from the ocean with the condition that the King would then offer the beast in sacrifice to the gods. Upon seeing the bull, the King who was greatly affected by its beauty, was unable to fulfill his promise, and so he offered another from his herd in its place. Enraged, Poseidon took revenge on the King and caused his wife, Queen Pasiphäe, to fall passionately in love with the animal. Desperate to satisfy her longing, Queen Pasiphäe enlisted the assistance of Daedalus, a well-known Athenian living in exile in Crete. Through his ingenuity, Daedalus facilitated the Queen's union with the great white bull, which resulted in the birth of the Minotaur, a creature with a bull's head and man's body. Upon learning of his wife's shameful indiscretion, the furious King Minos employed Daedalus to construct a huge and inescapable labyrinth that would imprison the Minotaur for eternity. As further punishment, the Athenian people were required to annually offer seven youths and seven maidens in sacrifice to the Minotaur.

    An avid reader of Ovid's Metamorphoses, it is likely that Rodin would have been fully acquainted with the Minotaur's legend when the present work was conceived between 1883 and 1885. The artist may have also been influenced by Stéphane Mallarmé's 1875 poem L'après-midi d'un faune, since he is known to have given the author a plaster cast of Minotaur in 1893.

    Rodin regularly explored themes of sexuality through his work. Drawing upon the examples of Clodion, the eighteenth century decorator, and Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, it is likely that Rodin utilized mythological themes such as the legend of the Minotaur in his more erotic compositions in order to elude the otherwise critical eye of the censor. Rodin created numerous sculptural pairings of figures in his art, but Albert Elsen suggests this highly erotic and sexually charged work differs from the many other pairings because the figures were most likely conceived and modeled together and not separately, which can also be seen as further evidence to its early date.

    The present work depicts the moment in which a sacrificial maiden falls into the clutches of the Minotaur. Surprisingly there is no evidence of a violent struggle. The Minotaur sits on a rock with the maiden in his lap. Conflicting details seem to invite speculation as to the nature of the relationship between the figures. The woman does not recoil in terror at the beast's touch, nor does she willingly succumb to him. Rodin's masterful composition enables him to depict the female figure in sensual detail while simultaneously depicting the highly developed musculature of the male figure's back. His positioning of the figures will have most certainly contributed to its popularity. In fact Minotaur was widely exhibited around the turn of the century and early years of the twentieth century with the first recorded exhibition dating to 1896. Rodin also carved a marble version of this work for the German collector Karl-Ernst Osthaus after 1903, and as was often the case, Rodin created several plaster models from the marble, one of which was likely given to the art critic Maurice Guillemot, and it is from this model that the present work was cast in 1985-1986.

    Provenance

    Claude Cueto, Paris.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Literature

    G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, p. 79, no. 207 (marble version illustrated, no. 206).
    I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 100.
    J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, pp. 270-273, no. 41-1 (another cast illustrated).
    J. de Casto and P.B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, California Legion of Honor, San Fransisco, 1977, pp. 105-108, no. 14 (another version illustrated).
    C. Lampert, Rodin, Sculpture and Drawings, London, 1986, pp. 88 and 215-216, no. 119 (another cast illustrated, pl. 156).
    A.E. Elsen, Rodin's Art: The Rodin Collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, pp. 510-512 (another cast illustrated, pp. 510-511).