Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

L'enfant prodigue, petit modèle

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
L'enfant prodigue, petit modèle
signed 'A. Rodin' (on the base); inscribed with foundry mark and dated 'Georges Rudier Fondeur Paris c Musée Rodin 1964' (on the side of the base); with raised signature 'A. Rodin' (on the underside)
bronze with brown and green patina
Height: 21 5/8 in. (55.4 cm.)
Conceived in 1889; this bronze version cast in 1964
Musée Rodin, Paris.
Private collection, Paris (circa 1980).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1983.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, p. 82, no. 220 (plaster version illustrated).
G. Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1947, p. 142, no. 83 (large bronze version illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, pp. 57-59 (large bronze version illustrated, p. 56).
A. Tacha, "The Prodigal Son: Some New Aspects of Rodin's Sculpture," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, 1964, vol. 22, pp. 23-39 (large bronze versions illustrated, p. 24, fig. 1; p. 26, fig. 2, and p. 31, fig. 7; limestone version illustrated, p. 26, fig. 3).
R. Descharnes and J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 91 (large bronze version illustrated).
I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 92 (plaster version illustrated, pl. 34).
A.T. Spear, "A Note on Rodin's Prodigal Son and on the Relationship of Rodin's Marbles and Bronzes," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, 1969, vol. 27, pp. 24-36 (large bronze version illustrated, p. 24, fig. 1).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, London, 1974, pp. 57-59 (large bronze version illustrated).
J. Hawkins, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1975, p. 18, no. 3 (large bronze version illustrated, fig. 5).
J. de Caso and P.B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1977, pp. 159-163 (large bronze version illustrated, p. 161; details of another large bronze version illustrated, pp. 158 and 162).
A.-B. Fonsmark, Rodin: La collection du Brasseur Carl Jacobsen à la Glyptothéque, Copenhagen, 1988, pp. 103-105, no. 16 (limestone version illustrated, p. 104).
Y. Le Pichon and C.-M. Lavrillier, Rodin: La porte de l'enfer, Lausanne, 1988, p. 184 (limestone version illustrated, pp. 183 and 185).
M.L. Levkoff, Rodin in His Time: The Cantor Gifts to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1994, pp. 82-83 and 205 (large bronze version illustrated, p. 83).
Paris, Galerie Brame & Lorenceau, Rodin. Sculptures, dessins, photographies, January-February 2006, no. 26 (illustrated, pp. 118-119).

Lot Essay

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 1997V796B.

L'enfant prodigue was originally conceived as part of La porte de l'Enfer, a monumental sculpted portal representing Dante's Inferno that the French government commissioned from Rodin in 1880 for a proposed museum of the decorative arts. The figure formed part of a couple that appears twice on the right-hand panel, once in the center and again in the lower right corner.

The present sculpture is among the most poignant and compelling of Rodin's works. It depicts a kneeling male nude, his arms thrown upward in supplication, his body wracked by despair. The title of the work, L'enfant prodigue, refers to the new testament parable (Luke 15:11-32) of the son-turned-swineherd who recklessly spends his father's wealth and returns home, impoverished and degraded, to ask for forgiveness. Rodin, however, has removed any specific reference to the parable and instead presents simply a person stripped of all restraint, his passions laid bare. The figure's emotional state is masterfully inscribed in the very forms of his body. The rib cage is twisted and the deltoid muscles displaced to augment the expression of anxiety, while the left side of the body is lengthened and the right side contracted to emphasize the figure's desperate striving. As Rodin himself explained, "I have accentuated the swelling of the muscles which express distress, as I have exaggerated the straining of the tendons which indicate the outburst of prayer" (quoted in J. de Caso and P.B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, San Francisco, 1977, p. 159).

Scholars and critics have long noted both the emotional force and the formal beauty of L'enfant prodigue. Jacques de Caso has written:

This kneeling figure, whose entire body proclaims the intensity of his passions, is one of Rodin's most convincing portrayals of suffering and longing. The simple gesture of the body conveys the idea of anguish with unequivocal directness... Artists had long used the gesture of the arms raised over the head as an expression of intense sorrow and despair...[but] Rodin raised this formal arrangement to a new level, altering it, endowing it with force, to confront us not only with a sculptural manifestation of an extreme psychological state but with an image of supreme beauty (ibid., p. 159).

More from Impressionist And Modern Art Day Sale

View All
View All