Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
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Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

Le penseur

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Le penseur
signed 'A.Rodin' and stamped with the foundry mark 'Alexis Rudier Paris' (on the base); with the raised signature 'A.Rodin' (on the inside)
bronze with green and brown patina
Height: 14¾in. (37.5cm.)
Conceived circa 1880; this bronze version probably cast in the 1920s
Acquired by the father of the present owner before 1970.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, no. 143 (the plaster version illustrated).
H. Martinie, Auguste Rodin, Paris, 1949, no. 19 (another cast illustrated p. 25).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, pl. 52-3 (another version illustrated).
I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, no. 11 (another version illustrated).
J. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, pp. 111, 112, 114 & 116 (another cast illustrated fig. 60, p. 71).
J. de Caso & P.B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture, A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, San Francisco, 1977, pp. 128-131 (the bronze in the California Palace of the Legion of Honour illustrated).
A.E. Elsen (ed.), Rodin Rediscovered, Washington, 1981, pp. 66-67 (another cast illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin, California, 1985, pp. 71 & 73-74 (another cast illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin's Thinker and the Dilemmas of Modern Public Sculpture, New Haven, 1985.
C. Lampert, Rodin: Sculpture and Drawings, London, 1986, p. 24 (another version illustrated p. 25).
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Lot Essay

Le penseur was conceived circa 1860 for the centre of the tympanum of Rodin's La porte de l'Enfer. He later explained the genesis of his project: 'The Thinker has a story. In the days long gone by, I conceived the idea of the Gates of Hell. Before the door, seated on a rock, Dante, thinking of the plan of his poem. Behind him, Ugolino, Francesca, Paolo, all the characters of the Divine Comedy. This project was not realized. Thin, ascetic, Dante separated from the whole naked man, seated upon a rock, his feet drawn under him, his fist at his teeth, he dreams. The fertile thought slowly elaborates itself in the brain. He is no longer dreamer, he is creator' (A.E. Elsen, op. cit., 1963, p. 53).

Rodin expressed his own thoughts directly in a plastic medium and thus it is no surprise that he aimed to combine within Le penseur the attributes of both physical and mental acumen. This monumental figure, possibly his most celebrated work, was discussed by the sculptor shortly before his death, where he stressed the physicality and the vitality and power of the creative mind: 'Nature gives me my model life and thought; the nostrils breathe, the heart beats, the lungs inhale... the being thinks and feels... What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, with his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back and legs, with his clenched first and gripping toes' (Saturday Night, Toronto, December 1917).

Le penseur belongs to the group of major early works inspired by Michelangelo, whose sculpture had greatly impressed Rodin on his visit to Italy in 1875. Rodin soon considered Le penseur to be valid as an independent work and exhibited it on its own in Copenhagen in 1888.

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