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

Iris, messagère des dieux, étude sans tête, petit modèle

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Iris, messagère des dieux, étude sans tête, petit modèle
with the raised signature 'A. Rodin' (on the base of the left foot)
bronze with green patina
Height: 16¼ in. (41.2 cm.)
Conceived in 1890-1891; this version cast in an edition of eleven, first by Alexis Rudier between 1935 and 1951 and subsequently by Georges Rudier between 1957 and 1965; the present example one of the first cast by Alexis Rudier circa 1935-1938
Musée Rodin, Paris.
Eugène Rudier, Le Vésinet, by whom acquired from the above.
M. Pierre Bourut, Saint-Germain en Laye, by whom acquired from the above circa 1938.
Jacques Moyses, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in 1964.
Acquired from the above in January 1965, and thence by descent to the present owner.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, p. 171 (another cast illustrated).
M. Aubert, Rodin Sculptures, Paris, 1952, p. 50 (another cast illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, p. 185 (another cast illustrated).
R. Descharnes & J.F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 249 (another cast illustrated).
I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 103 (another cast illustrated pl. 77).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, pp. 288-292 (another cast illustrated p. 290).
A.E. Elsen, In Rodin's Studio, A Photographic Record of Sculpture in the Making, Ithaca, New York, 1980, no. 95 (another cast illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin Rediscovered, Washington D.C., 1981 (another cast illustrated pl. 111).
C. Lampert, Rodin Sculpture and Drawings, London, 1986, nos. 141 & 144 (another cast illustrated pls. 206-207).
J.M. Roos, 'Rodin's Monument to Victor Hugo: Art and Politics in the Third Republic', in The Art Bulletin, December 1986, vol. LXVIII, no. 4, pp. 654-655 (another cast illustrated pl. 24).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, vol. II, Paris, 2007, pp. 452-455 (another cast illustrated fig. 1, p. 454).
Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, L'Impressionnisme dans les collections romandes, June - October 1984, no. 84, p. 175 (illustrated).
London, Hayward Gallery, Rodin, Sculptures & Drawings, November 1985 - January 1986, no. 141, pp. 220-221 (illustrated).
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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

The Comité Auguste Rodin under the direction of Jérome Le Blay will include this work in their forthcoming Rodin Catalogue critique de l'oeuvre sculpté under the number 2009-2420B.

'Iris is the piece with the most pathos ... it is perhaps the finest he ever did' (Aristide Maillol, quoted in A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Museé Rodin, vol. II, Paris, 2007, p. 454)

Widely considered to be the most provocative and visceral of all of Auguste Rodin's sculptures, Iris, messagère des Dieux, conceived circa 1891-93, evolved from his studies for the swooping, winged allegorical figure crowning the second project for his Monument to Victor Hugo. In the context of the intended monument's design, the nude figure hovering above Hugo's head linked creative genius and sex. Enlarged and stripped of her wings, head and left arm and displayed vertically in the round atop an iron shaft, Iris became transformed into an incredibly bold and explicit portrayal of the female anatomy that, in its very directness, unflinchingly eschews anecdote. Also sometimes known as the The Eternal Tunnel or Flying Figure, Henri Lebossé--who worked for Rodin and had enlarged Iris in 1894--referred to the figure simply as 'Study of a Woman with Legs Apart', foregrounding its overt eroticism.

Numerous sketches and drawings by Rodin attest to his interest in having his models assume unusual, frequently erotic and non-academic poses. In these drawings, the models are often depicted lying on their backs and Iris was, as Antoinette Le Normand-Romain has claimed, almost certainly realised in this manner (see A. Le Normand-Romain, op. cit., p. 454). This may account for the rudimentary modeling of the figure's back, although the modelling of the stomach might be considered equally haptic. The insistent dynamism of this sculpture, where the muscular figure athletically grasps her right foot, can also be seen as illustrative of Rodin's growing interest in movement and dance. Indeed, it has been claimed that the suggestive movements of cancan dancers may have provided the inspiration for Iris' unconventional, arabesque-like pose (see C. Lampert, Rodin: Sculpture & Drawings, exh. cat., London, 1986, p. 123).

In its fragmentation and provocative posture, which quite deliberately foreground the female genitalia, Iris recalls Gustave Courbet's infamous painting, L'Origine du monde (1866). Although this audacious work was, at the time, in private hands, Rodin may have had the opportunity to view it through his contact with Edmond de Goncourt who had himself seen it in the summer of 1889. For the poet Arthur Symons, in Iris, 'All the force of the muscle palpitates in this strenuous flesh, the whole splendour of her sex, unveiled, palpitates in the air, the messenger of the gods, bringing some divine message, pauses in flight, an embodied inspiration' (A. Symons, quoted in Rodin, exh. cat., London, 2007, no. 207, p. 257).

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