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

Le Baiser, moyen modèle dit "Taille de la Porte" - second état

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Le Baiser, moyen modèle dit "Taille de la Porte" - second état
signed 'A. Rodin' (on the right side of the base); inscribed with foundry mark and dated '.Georges Rudier. Fondeur. Paris © by musée Rodin. 1970' (on the back of the base); with the raised signature 'A. Rodin' (on the inside)
bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 33¼ in. (85.1 cm.)
Conceived in 1880-1881; this bronze version cast in 1970
Musée Rodin, Paris.
B. Gerald Cantor, New York, by whom acquired from the above in July 1970.
Barbara P. Johnson, Monaco.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 15 May 1984, lot 87.
Charles Pankow, California, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 4 November 2004, lot 3.
Acquired by the present owner in May 2010.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, no. 166, p. 58 (marble version illustrated).
C. Goldscheider, Rodin, sa vie, son oeuvre, son héritage, Paris 1962, p. 49 (marble version illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, p. 62 (another version illustrated p. 63).
B. Champigneulle, Rodin, London, 1967, pp. 162-163 & 282, nos. 78-79 (marble version illustrated).
R. Descharnes & J.F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 130 (marble version illustrated p. 131).
I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 100 (marble version illustrated pls. 54-55).
L. Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, London, 1970, pl. 49 (marble version illustrated).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, pp. 72, 90 & 108 (marble version illustrated p. 77).
J. de Caso and P.B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture, San Francisco, 1977, pp. 149-152 (another cast illustrated p. 148).
N. Barbier, Marbres de Rodin: Collection du Musée, Paris, 1987, p. 184, no. 79 (marble version illustrated p. 185).
F.V. Grunfeld, Rodin, A Biography, New York, 1987, pp. 187-90, 221-22, 260, 262, 275-276, 281-282, 342, 373-374, 400, 457 & 577.
D. Finn & M. Busco, Rodin and his Contemporaries: The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection, New York, 1991, p. 60 (another cast illustrated).
R. Masson & V. Mattiussi, Rodin, Paris, 2004, p. 40 (marble version illustrated p. 41; terracotta version illustrated p. 42).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of the Works in the Musée Rodin, vol. I, Paris, 2007, no. S.472, pp. 159-163 (another cast illustrated pp. 158-159).

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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 2004-508B.

Le Baiser is one of the most emblematic works of Rodin’s oeuvre, its fame equalled 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 real-life 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. Discovered 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 impression... is one of Paolo’s slowly eroding resolve and awakening desire’ (Rodins Art, Oxford, 2003, p. 211).

Rodin’s depiction of the ill-fated lovers was originally conceived as part of La Porte de lEnfer, 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 modelled 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, the same size as the present cast. 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 (9O inches, 15 inches, 24 inches, and 28æ inches), retaining the right to cast the original scale himself. The present example is part of an edition of eight full-sized bronzes that was executed between 1955 and 1972 by the founder Georges Rudier, under the supervision of the Musée Rodin.

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