AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more THE PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)

Femme nue couchée de face, sur le flanc droit, accoudée et les poings au menton

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Femme nue couchée de face, sur le flanc droit, accoudée et les poings au menton
signed 'A. Rodin' (lower right)
watercolour and pencil on paper
7 7⁄8 x 12 1⁄4 in. (20 x 31.2 cm.)
Executed circa 1900
Paul & Marguerite Rosenberg, Paris.
Private collection, Paris, by descent from the above; sale, Christie's, Paris, 3 December 2007, lot 1.
Nicholas Sands & Company Fine Art, New York, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
New York, Nicholas Sands & Co. Fine Art, Rodin, A Private View: An Exhibition in honor of Madame Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, Chief Conservator of the Musée Rodin, February - March 2009.
Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Post lot text
This work will be included in the catalogue raisonné of drawings and paintings from Auguste Rodin which Christina Buley-Uribe is currently preparing.

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Micol Flocchini
Micol Flocchini Head of Works on Paper Sale

Lot Essay

‘It is extremely rare to find such a “primary” sketch with watercolour’ - Christina Buley-Uribe.

Executed circa 1900, this drawing of a figure that seems to be floating in space belonged to Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959), one of the most important French art dealers of the first part of the XXth century. He is known for his famous gallery on the Rue de la Boétie in Paris. During WWII, he fled to New York in order to escape Nazi and Vichy anti-Semitic persecutions, and opened a new gallery on East 57th Street. Rosenberg acquired several drawings by Rodin at auction as early as 1917, the year of the death of the artist. It seems the dealer appreciated this typically ‘Rodinian’ theme—the figure in space—since the drawing of Lucifer (Fallen Meteor in Flames), now at the Pierpoint Morgan Library, was also formerly in his possession.

This drawing, and the present lot, Femme nue couchée de face, must have been very important to Rosenberg, as he took them both with him when he fled Paris—saving them from Nazi hands—and they were kept in the Rosenberg family until many years after his death. The two works were executed after a model seen in foreshortening, leaning on the ground, that only an artist like Rodin could transform into a falling meteor or a levitating figure. Egon Schiele, on whom Rodin had a decisive influence, drew a model in a similar pose.

In general, in Schiele’s drawings, there is no ambiguity that the figure belongs to a tangible surrounding: the abstract white space of the sheet doesn’t imply any other landscape than its natural one. On the contrary Rodin—maybe because he is also a sculptor—often considers the figure as if it were a three-dimensional object that can be turned upside down, or that can be fitted into an imaginary place, the sky or the sea. Here, in the present lot, the delicate blue watercolour under the figure indicates one or the other and gives it a poetic dimension. The watercoloured surrounding—sometimes just a splash—interacts with the figure and creates movement, which, unlike Schiele’s, is Rodin’s main purpose in art.

As the Rodin scholar Antoinette Le Normand-Romain further noted on Rodin’s working method and his aim to depict motion in his drawings: ‘Rodin began sketching with his eyes fixed on the model, without looking at the sheet of paper. Just as Leonardo da Vinci allowed his hand to move randomly across the paper, obtaining what might seem like shapeless scribble but gave rise to componimento inculto (instinctive composition), which was the starting point for all his works, Rodin let his pencil run across the page in pursuit of form. His first outline was initially hesitant, but he then went over it a second time more vigorously, and occasionally added an emphatic third contour—the repeated lines create a “blurred” effect suggesting motion. In some cases, the same figure has been reworked over and over again…’(A. Le Normand-Romain, ‘Rodin’, 2014, pp. 168-69).

And as Rodin himself stated: ‘Not once, as I described the form of that mass, did I take my eyes off the model. Why? Because I wanted to be certain that nothing escaped me. Not for an instant did I think about the technical problem of its depiction on paper, which might have hindered the impulse of my intuition from my eye to my hand. As soon as my eye rests on the paper, this impulse comes to a stop. […] My aim is to test the extent to which my hands already feel what my eyes see.’

The present lot, made from Rodin’s direct observation of a live model and executed with great calligraphic freedom, represents the first stage in the above process of ‘blind’ sketching that he developed in the mid-1890’s. The result was a particularly powerful sketch which Rodin did not hesitate to present as a completed work, since he signed it. It is extremely rare to find such a ‘primary’ sketch with watercolour, the art historian Christina Buley-Uribe has noted. Aside from the present lot, one known example is Kneeling Nude Male, today in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Mastbaum collection, no. F1929-7-185).

So pleased was Rodin by this figure that he conceived—compact and torso-like and suspended in the air like a cloud—that he created from it (by a process of tracing over it) two other versions of this work, both of which are in the Musée Rodin (inv. nos. D. 4745 and D. 4635). Together these three closely related works form a small series, and one of those variants (D. 4745) bears the inscriptions on the lake / the cloud / sphinx / sinister meteor… providing clues as to its possible meanings and which correspond also to the present work. It indirectly also relates to Lucifer (Fallen Meteor in Flames), the above work from the Rosenberg collection.

This type of annotation, iconography and ‘correspondence’ from one drawing to another in Rodin’s oeuvre—which is complex and draws those attempting to understand it into a dizzying spiral—is discussed by art historian Christina Buley-Uribe who wrote, in part: ‘Rodin’s annotations, and the subjects he created by turning drawings upside down [as in Lucifer (Fallen Meteor in Flames)], were for him a way of piling up additional meanings…. There is always the possibility of associations of ideas and shifts in meaning from one [drawing] to another; all analogies are welcome, and none is ruled out. Thus Rodin allowed himself to be influenced by a drawing’s possible meanings, and instead of merely noticing an analogy, he would stop, and reinforce the meaning with a line, a colour or an annotation (different analogies, too, may co-exist comfortably in a single drawing)…’

The present drawing Femme nue couchée de face is contained in the original gold painted frame in which it was viewed by Paul Rosenberg, thus preserving a part of its history and underscoring that illustrious provenance. The closely related work, Lucifer (Fallen Meteor in Flames), will be included in the forthcoming exhibition at The Clark Institute in Williamstown, ‘Rodin in the United States: Confronting the Modern’ (cat. no. 99, p. 216, Yale University Press).

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