AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
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AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
19 More
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRESTIGIOUS PRIVATE COLLECTION
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)

Éternelle idole, grand modèle

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Éternelle idole, grand modèle
signed 'A. Rodin' (on the right front of the base) and inscribed with the foundry mark 'ALEXIS RUDIER. Fondeur Paris.' (on the right side of the base); signed 'A.Rodin' (a raised signature in the interior) and inscribed '42A' (in the interior)
bronze with rich dark brown patina and green highlights
height: 28 1/2 in. (72.4 cm.)
Conceived in 1889, this example cast by Alexis Rudier in 1927
Musée Rodin, Paris.
Eugène Rudier, Le Vésinet, by whom acquired from the above circa 1935.
Private collection, Florence.
Private collection, USA, by whom acquired circa 1960.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 4 May 2005, lot 138.
Bowman Sculpture, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner on 24 April 2017.

This work will be included in the forthcoming Auguste Rodin catalogue critique de l'œuvre 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 2005V593B.
L. Maillard, Études sur quelques artistes originaux, Auguste Rodin, statuaire, Paris, 1899, pp. 129, 132-133, 147, 158 (marble version illustrated pp. 129 & 133).
F. Lawton, François-Auguste Rodin, London, 1907, pp. 146, 154, 174, 180 (marble version illustrated).
C. Mauclair, Auguste Rodin, The Man, His Ideas, His Works, London, 1909, pp. 40-41, 85.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, no. 204, p. 77 (another cast illustrated).
R.M. Rilke, Auguste Rodin, Paris, 1928, pp. 58-61.
M. Hoffman, Sculpture Inside and Out, London, 1939, no. 94, p. 124 (another cast illustrated).
H. Martine, Auguste Rodin, Paris, 1949, no. 37 (another version illustrated).
I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 103 (marble version illustrated pl. 58).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, p. 47 (another cast illustrated pl. 9).
J. de Caso & P.B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture, A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, California Palace of the Legion of Honour, San Francisco, 1977, no. 5, pp. 63-66 (other versions illustrated pp. 64 & 65).
A. Beausire (ed.), Quand Rodin exposait, Paris, 1988, no. 95, pp. 35, 127-128, 189, 279, 352, 367.
M.L. Levkoff, Rodin in his Time, The Cantor Gifts to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1994, no. 39, pp. 124, 208, 224 (another cast illustrated pp. 124-125).
M. Kausch, "Das Menschenbild Auguste Rodins" in exh. cat., Auguste Rodin, Eros und Leidenschaft, Palais Harrach, Vienna, 1996, no. 22, pp. 53-55 (another cast illustrated p. 52).
I. Ross & A. Snow (eds.), Rodin, A Magnificent Obsession, London, 2001, p. 20 (another cast illustrated no. 10).
D. Lobstein, "Antony Roux et Alfred Baillehache-Lamotte, collectionneurs de Rodin", in Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français, Paris, 2002, p. 328.
A. Le Normand-Romain, Camille Claudel & Rodin, Le temps remettra tout en place, Paris, 2003, no. 42, pp. 36-38 (another cast illustrated p. 36).
A. Le Normand-Romain, in exh. cat., A Private Passion, 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, New York, 2003, no. 119, pp. 291-293 (marble version illustrated).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, vol. I, Paris, 2007, pp. 328-330 (another cast illustrated).
Exh. cat., Rodin, Le livre du centenaire, Grand Palais, 2017, p. 95 (another version illustrated fig. 12).
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.

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Imogen Kerr Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Unreservedly sensual, Éternelle idole, grand modèle represents one of Rodin's most intensely intimate explorations of the dual figure composition, reprising his most evocative theme of the passionate lovers. Whilst there does not appear to have been a singular underlying narrative to the work, several interpretations have been given to the scene, notably that the pair herein depicted may recollect Rodin’s psychology around his own passionate relationship with sculptor Camille Claudel, the present work correlating to some degree compositionally with her own seminal work L’Abandon [see lot 431], as recalled by Antoinette le Normand-Romain, “Is it a reflection of Camille Claudel? At the time, their affair was reaching its peak and this group must certainly be compared to works such as Rodin’s Le Baiser [see lot 433] and especially Claudel’s Sukuntala, or L’Abandon [see lot 431]. In those two works, however, the figures are closely united, whereas in L’Eternelle Idole they seem separated by a gulf; and it is that gulf, so difficult to define, that gives the group and intriguing character that certainly accounts for some of its success” (in exh. cat., A Private Passion, 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, New York, 2003, no. 119, p. 293).

This particular design seems to further reflect a moment observed in the sculptor's studio, as told by his assistant Jules DesBois: "One day, from up on the scaffold where I was working on the Burghers of Calais, I noticed Rodin, who between some screens, was doing a nude sculpture, for which the model was a young woman, stretched out on a table. As the session was drawing to a close he bent over toward the woman and kissed her tenderly on the belly--a gesture of adoration of nature, which gave her much joy" (quoted in J. Cladel, Rodin, London, 1953, p. 271). The tender gesture of worship to the stomach of Rodin’s muse, suspended in her pose of the performance of femininity—an idol of sorts—presents itself as a gesture to the elusive and contrary concept of the feminine ideal. The gesture toward the stomach provides an insinuation of woman as the source of life, alongside the muse as source of inspiration, and yet the complicated relationship between the preservation of chastity contrasted with sexual desire in the psyche of the supplicant kneeling before her in this composition may provide the tension so evident in his pose. He desires her, yet holds his hands behind his back, perhaps fearing that his attainment of the ideal, his idol, may in turn destroy it altogether, his fantasy of woman predicated on incompatible desires.

From the outset, Éternelle idole, grand modèle gained immediate commercial success - the painter Eugène Carrière commissioned a marble version in 1893 - no doubt thanks to the mysteries which surrounded its interpretation: the woman appears to be at the same time distant and protective, whereas the man seems to struggle, oscillating between submissiveness and passion. The tension which emanates from the couple was described as early as 1896 by Paul Margueritte: “she triumphs without pride, mild, but regally invincible. And he, kneeling, humbled, there in human suffering, in impassioned ardor, his hands behind his back to show that he is the slave and not the master, leans his head from the base of his neck onto her abdomen which he kisses as the child adores the Madonna, devoutly receiving the host”. (‘found letter’, in L’Écho de Paris, Paris, no. 4380, 23 May 1896, p. 1). Willem Geertrudus Cornelis Byvanck and Jules Renard encountered the smaller version of the work, remarking “At Rodin’s revelation, an enchanting sight, these Gates of Hell, this small thing, as big as my hand, which is called The Eternal Idol: a man with his arms tied behind his back, defeated, kisses a women underneath her breasts, presses his lips against her skin, and the woman looks very sad. It was hard to tear myself away from it.” (A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works, in the Musée Rodin, vol. I, Paris, 2007, p. 329).

Two figures forming a couple the couple in Éternelle idole, grand modèle were originally conceived as individual forms within Rodin’s Porte de l’Enfer (Gates of Hell) composition. It was only in 1890 that they would be united as a couple, whose modest format betrays a surprisingly powerful impression. The present version is an exceptionally rare example, from the earliest edition of four bronze casts by Alexis Rudier between 1926 and 1930; this version cast between the end of 1926 and the start of 1927 in the large size, measuring 72 centimetres high. No bronzes of this cast were produced during the artist’s lifetime which makes the early posthumous examples especially desirable, with only four created. Subsequently, nine further casts were made by Georges Rudier between 1967 and 1978. Versions reside in museum collections across the world, including the Musée Rodin in Paris and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco.

As eloquently discussed by Rainer Maria Rilke, in comparison with Le Baiser, “The spell of the great group of the girl and the man that is named "The Kiss" lies in this understanding distribution of life. In this group waves flow through the bodies, a shuddering ripple, a thrill of strength, and a presaging of beauty… It is like a sun that rises and floods all with its light. Still more marvellous is that other kiss, "L'éternelle Idole." The material texture of this creation encloses a living impulse as a wall encloses a garden… A girl kneels, her beautiful body is softly bent backward, her right arm is stretched behind her. Her hand has gropingly found her foot. In these three lines which shut her in from the outer world her life lies enclosed with its secret. The stone beneath her lifts her up as she kneels there. And suddenly, in the attitude into which the young girl has fallen from idleness, or reverie, or solitude, one recognizes an ancient, sacred symbol, a posture like that into which the goddess of distant, cruel cults had sunk. The head of this woman bends somewhat forward; with an expression of indulgence, majesty and forbearance, she looks down as from the height of a still night upon the man who sinks his face into her bosom as though into many blossoms. He, too, kneels, but deeper, deep in the stone. His hands lie behind him like worthless and empty things. The right hand is open; one sees into it. From this group radiates a mysterious greatness. One does not dare to give it one meaning, it has thousands. Thoughts glide over it like shadows, new meanings arise like riddles and unfold into clear significance.” R. M. Rilke, trans. J. Lemont & H. Trausil, Auguste Rodin, New York, 1919, pp. 30-33.

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