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Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Property of The Tateshina Open Air Museum
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

Le Désespoir

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Le Désespoir
signed 'A. Rodin' (on the top of the base); inscribed with foundry mark '195 Alexis Rudier Fondeur PARIS' (on the back of the base); with raised signature 'A. Rodin' (on the underside)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 12 5/8 in. (32 cm.)
Conceived circa 1893; this bronze version cast in 1941
Musée Rodin, Paris.
Eugène Rudier, Le Vésinet (acquired from the above, December 1941).
Alain Lesieutre, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 13 December 1989, lot 224.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, no. 170 (plaster version illustrated, p. 68).
R. Descharnes and J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 94 (another cast illustrated).
I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 92.
C. Lampert, Rodin, Sculpture and Drawings, London, 1986, p. 208, no. 86 (plaster version illustrated).
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. 258-262, no. 70 (another cast illustrated, p. 260).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, pp. 306-309 (other casts, marble and plaster versions illustrated).

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 2011-3571B.

Rodin's Le Désespoir, executed for La Porte de l'Enfer, represents a small female figure that appears in the upper-left panel of the door facing forward. In a sitting position, with both arms extended, hands intertwine and grasping her left foot in an acrobatic position, the young woman conceals her face, perhaps in sorrow, but pointing to an unrelieved tension or stress in her posture without obvious cause. Her raised left leg exposes her sexuality, which neither modesty nor fear wishes to conceal. Although there is no mention of Despair in Dante's Inferno, Rodin did refer to Despair and other figures in a letter written in 1908 as "shades belonging to different circles of Dante's Hell" (quoted in A.E. Elsen, op cit., p. 259).

Like many of the figures on Rodin's La Porte de l'Enfer, her representation is not direct allusion to any character in the nine circles of Dante's classic epic, but rather functions as a symbolic "shade" haunting the modern, hellish landscape of sin and punishment: desire without limits and satisfaction always deferred. Her ambiguity as a figure makes her even more alluring.

The figure exists in not only bronze, but also in plaster, marble and in bronze in other stances. The reworking of the figure speaks to Rodin's compositional method, as he revisited the model continuously, modifying the pose slightly each time. The success of this figure is evident in its simplistic composition, which is set off by the density of the figure. Very little negative space exists in the sculpture, as the figure pulls itself together in a rounded symmetry.

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