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

Le Baiser, 2ème réduction dit aussi no 4

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Le Baiser, 2ème réduction dit aussi no 4
signed 'Rodin' (on the upper right side); inscribed with foundry mark 'F.BARBEDIENNE, Fondeur PARIS FRANCE' (on the left side); stamped with chaser's mark 'K' (on the rim of the underside)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 23 5/8 in. (60.2 cm.)
Conceived in 1886 and cast between 1914 and 1918
Private collection, United States (by 1930).
Private collection, New Jersey.
By descent from the above to the present owner, 2001.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, nos. 91-92 (marble version illustrated, p. 47).
G. Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1947, p. 142 (marble version illustrated, pl. 71).
C. Goldscheider, Rodin: sa vie, son oeuvre, son héritage, Paris, 1962 (marble version illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, p. 62 (another cast illustrated, p. 63).
B. Champigneulle, Rodin, London, 1967, pp. 157 and 282, nos. 78-79 (marble version illustrated, pp. 162-163).
R. Descharnes and J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 130 (marble version illustrated, p.131).
I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 100 (marble version illustrated, pls. 54 and 55).
L. Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970, p. 121, no. 49 (marble version illustrated).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, p. 77, no. 151 (marble version illustrated).
J. de Caso and P. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1977, pp. 148-153, no. 22 (another cast illustrated, p. 150).
N. Barbier, Marbres de Rodin, Collection du Musée, Paris, 1987, pp. 184-187 and 258, no. 79 (marble version illustrated, pp. 185 and 187).
A. Le Normand-Romain, Le Baiser de Rodin/The Kiss by Rodin, Paris, 1995 (another cast illustrated, figs. 2 and 7; marble version illustrated, fig. 3).
A. Le Normand-Romain, Rodin, Paris, 1997, p. 49 (terracotta version illustrated, p. 48).
A. Pingeot, "Rodin au Musée du Luxembourg" in La Revue du Musée d'Orsay, autumn 2000, pp. 67-70 and 74, no. 11.
R. Butler, "Auguste Rodin" in European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century: The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, 2001, pp. 326-330.
A.E. Elsen, Rodin's Art: The Rodin Collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, pp. 214-215, fig. 167 (another cast illustrated).
R. Masson and V. Mattiussi, Rodin, Paris, 2004, p. 40 (marble and terracotta versions illustrated, pp. 41-42).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, p. 162, no. S.2393 (another cast illustrated, pp. 158-162; marble version illustrated, p. 163).

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Auguste Rodin catalogue critique de l'oeuvre sculpté currently being prepared by the Comité Auguste Rodin at Galerie Brame et Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay under the archive number 2013-4107B.

Le Baiser is one of the most emblematic works of Rodin's oeuvre, its fame equaled only by that of Le Penseur. The sculpture was inspired by an episode in Canto V of Dante's Inferno, recounting the illicit affair between two lovers from the poet's own day, Francesca da Rimini and her husband's brother, Paolo Malatesta. While reading the story of the adulterous love between Guinevere and Lancelot, Francesca and Paolo suddenly became aware of their powerful feelings for each other. Interrupted and killed by Francesca's husband Gianciotto in the midst of their first kiss, they were condemned to the second circle of Hell, punishing sins of the flesh. Although the theme of the embrace appears several times in Rodin's oeuvre, Le Baiser is unparalleled in its description of the complex emotions associated with the inception of love. While in Dante's telling, Paolo initiates the kiss, Rodin has Francesca raise her body toward him, inviting his embrace. Her right leg is slung over his left in a gesture of sexual appropriation, and she reaches up to pull his head towards her own. Paolo seems more timid, almost unprepared for the kiss. In his surprise, the book has slipped from his hand, still open to the page that the couple was reading. He delicately places three fingertips on Francesca's left thigh, a gesture that expresses both passion and restraint. Rodin has captured the instant in which the couple's lips are barely touching, a split second before they actually join in the forceful press of an impassioned kiss. Albert Elsen has written, "The whole one of Paolo's slowly eroding resolve and awakening desire" (Rodin's Art, Oxford, 2003, p. 211).

Rodin's depiction of the ill-fated lovers was originally conceived as part of La Porte de l'Enfer, a monumental gateway representing Dante's Inferno that the French government commissioned from the sculptor in 1880. The group features prominently on the lower left side of Rodin's third and final terracotta maquette for La Porte, which Octave Mirbeau described in the periodical La France in 1885. Like the majority of the figures for the project, it was not conceived as a relief but was modeled in the round and then attached to the plaster panels within the portal's frame. Given its important position in the maquette, Albert Elsen has suggested that the group was modeled relatively early in Rodin's work on La Porte. The sculptor ultimately decided, however, that the pair was too tender to fit within the cataclysmic drama of the overall composition, and he replaced it (probably in 1887) with a more tortured rendering of the same tale, known today as Paolo et Francesca. Rodin subsequently developed the embracing couple into an independent, free-standing sculpture entitled Le Baiser, which was exhibited in plaster at the Brussels Salon of 1887 and in bronze at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris later the same year.

The original version of Le Baiser was approximately 34 inches high. In 1888, following the success of the sculpture in Brussels and Paris, the French government commissioned Rodin to create a monumental marble version, approximately 75 inches high. Work on the marble progressed slowly, and the sculpture, now in the Musée Rodin in Paris, was finally exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1898. The same year, in an effort to keep pace with mounting demand from collectors, Rodin authorized the Barbédienne foundry to cast bronze editions of the sculpture in four reductions, retaining the right to cast the original scale himself.

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