AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
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AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
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Property from a Private California Collection
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)

Le Baiser, 1ère réduction

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Le Baiser, 1ère réduction
signed 'Rodin' (on the right of the rock); inscribed with foundry mark 'F. BARBEDIENNE. Fondeur' (on the left edge of the rock)
bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 27 1/2 in. (71.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1886; this bronze version cast in February 1912
L'association des Amis de Saint-Julien en Genevois et de l'arrondissement, Saint-Julien-en-Genevois.
Fernand David, Paris and Saint-Julien-en-Genevois (gift from the above, 24 February 1912, then by descent).
Galerie Vallois, Paris (1989).
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24 June 1992, lot 224.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.

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 2021-646 IB.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, p. 47, nos. 91-92 (marble version illustrated).
G. Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1947, p. 142 (marble version illustrated, pl. 71).
C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1962, p. 49 (marble version illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, pp. 62-63 (larger bronze version illustrated, p. 63; dated 1880-1882).
R. Descharnes and J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, London, 1967, p. 130 (marble version illustrated in situ at the Musée Rodin, Paris, p. 131).
I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 100 (detail of marble version illustrated, pl. 54; marble version illustrated, pl. 55).
L. Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970, p. 121, no. 49 (marble version illustrated).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, pp. 72, 90 and 108, no. 151 (marble version illustrated in situ at the Salon of 1898, p. 77).
J. de Caso and P. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, San Francisco, 1977, pp. 148-153, no. 22 (smaller bronze version illustrated, pp. 148 and 150).
R.M. Rilke, Rodin, Salt Lake City, 1982, pp. 38 and 104 (another cast illustrated, p. 39).
A.E. Elsen, The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin, Stanford, 1985, pp. 78 and 80-81 (another cast illustrated, p. 79, fig. 70).
N. Barbier, Marbres de Rodin: Collection du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1987, pp. 184 and 258, no. 79 (marble version illustrated, pp. 185 and 187).
A. Le Normand-Romain, Le Baiser de Rodin, Paris, 1995, pp. 20-21 (another cast illustrated, p. 20, fig. 2; plaster version illustrated, p. 20, fig. 3).
J. Vilain, Rodin at the Musée Rodin, Paris, 1996, p. 39 (large marble version illustrated in color).
A. Le Normand-Romain, Rodin, Paris, 1997, p. 49 (terracotta version illustrated in color, p. 48).
R. Butler and S.G. Lindsay, European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century: The Collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000, pp. 326 and 329-330 (another cast illustrated in color, pp. 327-328; plaster version illustrated, p. 329, fig. 1; marble version illustrated in situ at the Salon of 1898, p. 329, fig. 2).
A. Pingeot, "Rodin au Musée du Luxembourg" in La Revue du Musée d'Orsay, Fall 2000, pp. 67-70 and 74, no. 8 (marble version illustrated in situ at the Musée du Luxembourg, p. 74).
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, no. 49 (another cast illustrated, p. 215, fig. 167).
R. Masson and V. Mattiussi, Rodin, Paris, 2004, p. 40 (detail of marble version illustrated in color, p. 41; terracotta version illustrated in color, p. 42).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, p. 160 (other casts illustrated, pp. 159-161; marble version illustrated, p. 163, figs. 1-3).
A. Le Normand-Romain, Rodin, New York, 2014, pp. 133-134 (terracotta version illustrated in color, p. 132; marble version illustrated, pp. 133 and 135).
Paris, Galerie Vallois, Rodin César: Huit œuvres majeures, September-October 1989, pp. 24 and 28 (illustrated, p. 28).

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

One of Auguste Rodin’s greatest and most well-known sculptures, Le Baiser, 1ère reduction was first conceived in 1886 and cast, during the artist’s lifetime, in 1912. Incarnating the eroticism and exhilarating emotion that defined Rodin’s œuvre—as well as the rapturous feeling of falling head-over-heels for someone—Le Baiser is an icon of modern sculpture and a stunning representation of romantic love. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who worked for a time as Rodin’s secretary, observed of the work, “One feels that waves are passing into these bodies from their touching surfaces, shudderings of beauty, intimate and power. This is why one seems to see the rapture of the kiss in every part of these bodies; it is like a sun that rises, and its light shines everywhere” (quoted in Rodin, trans. R. Firmage, Salt Lake City, 1982, p. 38).
Le Baiser was inspired by the true story of Paolo and Francesca, the ill-fated Medieval lovers later recast in Dante’s Inferno. Rodin was a great admirer of Dante, who he saw as “not only a visionary, but also a sculptor” (quoted in op. cit., 1963, p. 35). In 1275, Francesca da Rimini was married to Giovanni Malatesta, a loveless union undertaken for political reasons. She later fell passionately and powerfully in love with her husband’s brother, Paolo; when they were discovered, Giovanni stabbed them both to death in a fury. Dante and Virgil meet Francesca and Paolo after descending to the second circle of Hell where they have been condemned to an eternity of torment and forced to wander forever for their sins. “Love,” says Francesca, “led the two of us unto one death” (Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto V, 106).
At first, Rodin had planned to include the tragic lovers in his La Porte de l'Enfer, the monumental bronze doors that had been commissioned by the French government in 1880 for the new Musée des Arts Décoratifs. But as Rodin chose not to represent their damnation but rather the couple’s first kiss—a moment of profound joy and optimism—the tender and erotic pairing was hardly suited to the harrowing image of Hell that he was in the process of creating. As such, Rodin reimagined his Paolo and Francesca as a freestanding work, and, eschewing the period costumes that were often worn in interpretations of Dante’s tale, sculpted them in the nude. Without doubt, passion emanates from Le Baiser, not just through their entwined bodies, but the delicacy of carving and minute details. Rodin has endowed his figures with a lifelike vitality, showing every muscle and nerve, a fluttering heartbeat and sigh. As he later reflected on his process, “I forced myself to express in each swelling of the torso or of the limbs the efflorescence of a muscle or of a bone which lay deep beneath the skin. And so the truth of my figures, instead of being merely superficial, seems to blossom from within to the outside, like life itself” (quoted in D. Rosenfeld, “Rodin’s Carved Sculpture,” in A.E. Elsen, ed., Rodin Rediscovered, Washington, D.C., 1981, p. 81).
One cannot help but be overwhelmed by the potency of feeling in Le Baiser, a sensation which helped to make the sculpture a success when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1898; it was described by a critic as “la vraie Beauté” and was seen as the era’s answer to the great sculptural traditions of antiquity (ibid., p. 87). Following this triumph, Rodin worked with the foundry Leblanc-Barbedienne to create an edition of the sculpture in bronze, and the resulting works, known as the “première reduction,” were produced between 1898 and 1918.

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