AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
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AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
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AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)

Age d’Airain, grand modèle

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Age d’Airain, grand modèle
signed ‘Rodin’ (on the right of the base); stamped with the foundry mark ‘Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris’ (on the back of the base)
bronze with dark brown and green patina
Height: 71 ½ in. (181.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1875-1876; this example cast in bronze in April 1929
Musée Rodin, Paris, by August 1929.
François Ducharne, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in 1929, and thence by descent; sale, Palais Galliera, Paris, 30 May 1967, lot E.
Acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent to the present owners.
F. Lawton, The Life and Work of Auguste Rodin, London, 1906, pp. 45, 47, 49 & 52 (plaster version illustrated).
J. Cladel, Auguste Rodin, L'homme et œuvre, Paris, 1908 (plaster version and another bronze cast illustrated pp. 86 & 88; titled 'Le réveil de l'humanité').
F. Dujardin-Beaumetz, Entretiens avec Rodin, Paris, 1915, p. 12.
G. Coquiot, Rodin, Paris, 1915, pp. 9 & 11 (another cast illustrated pl. 3).
H. de Régnier, L'Art moderne et quelques aspects de l'art d'autrefois, Paris, 1919 (another cast illustrated pl. 138).
L. Bénédite, Rodin, London, 1926, no. 6, p. 5 (another cast illustrated pl. 6).
K. Scheffler, Die europäische Kunst im neunzehnten Jahrhundert: Malerei und Plastik, vol. II, Berlin, 1927, pp. 292 & 347 (another cast illustrated p. 291).
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1929, no. 18, pp. 30 & 31 (another cast illustrated).
H. Martinie, Auguste Rodin 1840-1917, Paris, 1949, no. 13.
C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1962, pp. 54 & 55 (other casts illustrated).
H. Read, A Concise History of Modern Sculpture, London, 1964, pp. 12 & 302 (another cast illustrated pl. 2).
B. Champigneulle, Rodin, London, 1967, no. 12, pp. 47-53 (another cast illustrated pp. 48, 49, 51 & 53).
A. Tacha Spear, Rodin Sculpture in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1967, pp. 39, 94 & 95 (another cast illustrated pl. 56).
R. Descharnes & J.- F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, London, 1967, p. 52 (another cast illustrated p. 53).
I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 85 (another cast illustrated nos. 6-7, pp. 122 & 123).
A. Elsen, Rodin, London, 1974, pp. 21-26, 70, 191, 192, 194, 196, 207, 208 & 211 (another cast illustrated p. 20).
J. Hawkins, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1975, no. 1, p. 16 (another cast illustrated pls. 1 & 2, pp. 35 & 36).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, no. 64, pp. 342-349 (other casts illustrated).
J. de Caso & P. B. Sanders, Rodin’s Sculpture, San Francisco, 1977, no. 1, pp. 39-47 (another cast illustrated in situ in the Ducharne residence, pp. 24, 38, 43 & 45).
A. Elsen, In Rodin's Studio: A photographic record of sculpture in the making, New York, 1980, pp. 9, 10, 12, 22, 29, 30, 36, 158, 159, 161, 163, 170, 180 & 186 (plaster versions illustrated figs. 2 & 5, pp. 36 & 37).
A. Elsen, ed., Rodin Rediscovered, exh. cat., Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1981, pp. 23 & 33 (another cast illustrated figs. 1.7 & 1.32).
F. Camrad, Ruhlmann, Paris, 1983, p. 142 (another cast illustrated in situ).
E.G. Güse, Auguste Rodin: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, exh. cat., Munster, 1984, p. 356 (another cast illustrated fig. 13).
C. Goldscheider, Auguste Rodin, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre sculpté, vol. I, 1840-1886, Paris, 1989, no. 95, pp. 114-117 (another cast illustrated).
M. Laurent, Rodin, London, 1990, p. 42 (plaster version illustrated p. 24; another cast illustrated p. 43).
R. Crone & S. Salzmann, Rodin: Eros and Creativity, Munich, 1992, pp. 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, 42, 43, 58, 186, 208 & 210 (plaster version illustrated fig. 2, p. 9; other casts illustrated fig. 15, p. 42).
H. Marraud, ‘Return to Paris’, in Rodin: At the Musée Rodin, Paris, 1996, pp. 23 & 25 (another cast illustrated p. 25).
N. Mograbi, ‘The Age of Bronze’, in Muséart: Hors-série, Paris, vol. 28 F, 1998, pp. 8 & 9 (another cast illustrated p. 9).
J. A. Schmoll, Rodin and Camille Claudel, Munich, 1999, pp. 19-21 & 125 (another cast illustrated p. 20).
R. Masson & V. Mattiussi, Rodin, Paris, 2004, p. 151 (other casts illustrated pp. 150 & 151).
C. Mitchell, ed., Rodin: The Zola of Sculpture, Aldershot, 2004, pp. 21, 69, 107, 147, 184 & 187 (another cast illustrated fig. 13.1, p. 239).
A. Le Normand-Romain, in 'The Greatest of Living Sculptors' in Rodin, London, 2006 (other casts illustrated figs. 7 & 10).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, vol. I, Paris, 2007, no. S.468, pp. 121-129 (other casts illustrated).
Pully, Maison Pulliérane, Dessins de sculpteurs français de Rodin à nos jours, September - October 1968, no. 179.
Lausanne, Fondation de l’Hermitage, L’Impressionnisme dans le collections Romandes, June - October 1984, no. 83, p. 174 (illustrated).
Further details
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 2009-2422B.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

The conception and creation of Âge d'airain was the decisive moment in Auguste Rodin’s career, catapulting him out of obscurity and into fame. It was in this work that he first embraced wholeheartedly the naturalism that would become the hallmark of his œuvre, bestowing upon him the reputation of greatest modern sculptor. In Age d’Airain, grand modèle, Rodin sought to embody ‘the entire truth’ rather than the superficial or contrived, and in doing so, ultimately depicted life itself, presenting it as dignified, beautiful, tender, true (A. Rodin quoted in C. Farge et al, Rodin and the art of ancient Greece, exh. cat., British Museum, London, 2018, p. 100).
Following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Rodin began his sculpture as a tribute to the suffering of the French people. Although not a political refugee himself, he nevertheless felt the effects of the conflict: the resulting economic downturn had forced him to leave France for work in Belgium, and he had no idea as to when he would return home. In Brussels, Rodin worked for Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse as an ornamental sculptor, understanding all the while that the recent war could prove professionally expedient as many of the sculptures that had succeeded in the recent Salons were patriotic in tone and formally rigorous. Indeed, artists were abandoning the decorative, light-hearted style of the Second Empire in favour of, what the art critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary called, ‘something exact, sincere, and complete’ (J. Castagnary quoted in R. Butler, ‘Rodin and the Paris Salon’, in A. Elsen, ed., Rodin Rediscovered, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1981, p. 24).
This still-untitled work was to be Rodin’s first full size sculpture intended for the Salon, and he devoted great care and energy to its creation – more perhaps than to any other sculpture he would go on to create. In 1875, in the midst of its development, Rodin travelled to Italy, spending time in Rome and Florence, amongst other cities, where he studied Michelangelo’s and Donatello’s sculptures. ‘Seeing them for the first time,’ he wrote, ‘it is impossible to make a rational analysis. You won’t be surprised if I tell you that, from my first hour in Florence, I have been studying Michelangelo, and I believe that the great magician is letting me in on some of his secrets… I have made sketches in the evening, in my room, not directly of his works but of their structure; the system I’m building in my imagination in order to understand him. Well enough, I think that I’ve succeeded, in my own fashion, in giving them that élan, that indefinable something, which he alone knew how to produce’ (A. Rodin quoted in F.V. Grunfeld, Rodin: A Biography, New York, 1987, p. 95). Later, he would tell Antoine Bourdelle that it was Michelangelo who ‘liberated me from academicism’ (ibid.).
Upon his return to Brussels, Rodin resumed work on his sculpture, initially calling it Le Vaincu, and drawing on the lessons he learned in Italy. He passed hours in the studio with his model Auguste Neyt, a young Belgian soldier who later recounted his sessions with the artist: ‘Rodin did not want any exaggerated muscle, he wanted naturalness. I worked two, three, and even four hours a day and sometimes an hour at a stretch. Rodin was very pleased and would encourage me by saying: “just a little longer”’ (A. Neyt, Grand Artistique 4, April 1922, reprinted in R. Descharnes and J. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, New York, 1967, p. 49). To help with the long hours spent immobilised, Neyt supported himself with a staff, and in an early drawing of the finished sculpture, Rodin sketched his figure clutching a spear, a pose which suggests a moment of defeat. Soon thereafter, however, it was removed.
Without the spear, Rodin’s sculpture embodies the stirring of consciousness rather than a direct response to any specific act. Touching his head as if shaken awake from a terrible nightmare, the man appears to have been prised from life, and the all too human representation shocked critics and the public when the work was first exhibited at the Cercle Artistique in Brussels in 1877. The press accused Rodin of having moulded the body directly from the model as it was seen as too perfect to have been made by an artist. Critics were also unhappy with the subject, which they saw as too ambiguous, and taken aback by the extraordinary naturalism of Rodin’s work. Similar accusations followed after the sculpture – now known as Âge d'airain – was shown at the Salon in Paris.
It was the removal of the spear that so challenged the logic of the sculpture for the artist’s contemporaries: as Ruth Butler has argued, ‘For a twentieth century audience the psychological implications of a work suggesting ambivalence and permitting more than one interpretation are compelling. For a nineteenth century audience it presented major difficulties’ (op. cit., Washington, D.C., 1981, p. 34). Absent a historical or mythological allegory, they could not contend with such a direct confrontation with the naked body.
Rodin was deeply wounded by the accusation that he had cast his sculpture directly from the body of his model and in response sent the directors of the Salon a dossier of evidence to use in his defence, including a series of photographs taken by Gaudenzio Marconi of both the plaster sculpture and Neyt. At the time, photography, then just a few decades old, was thought to accurately document reality, and Rodin’s understanding of the new medium aligned with prevailing attitudes of the day: that the camera’s merits were not artistic. As he rather dismissively told the journalist Charles Chincholle, ‘For me modern sculpture cannot be photography. The artist must work not only with his hand but above all with his brain’ (A. Rodin quoted in A. Elsen, In Rodin’s Studio: A photographic record of sculpture in the making, Oxford, 1980, p. 12). With regards to the controversy surrounding L'Âge d'airain, Rodin’s reliance on photography makes clear his belief in the new medium’s truth-telling capabilities. Ironically, photography would prove essential to cementing his reputation internationally in the years to come.
Amongst those who saw the sculpture at the Salon, L'Âge d'airain was ‘condemned by the professors, while the students, connoisseurs and independent spirits loved it’ (A. Rodin quoted in op. cit., New York, 1987, p. 103). Its sheer vivacity and daring were tremendously exciting, and in the sculpture, Rodin challenged not simply the aesthetics of the era but the entire history of three-dimensional representation. He sought, argued Albert Elsen, nothing more than ‘to show the way a single living human body looks’, an issue which would continue to resonate amongst Modern artists (A. Elsen, Rodin, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1963, p. 23).
Various artists wrote to the État aux Beaux-Arts on the artist’s behalf and Neyt even proposed to travel to Paris and pose next to the sculpture so that the jury itself could make a comparison; unfortunately, the Belgian army did not grant him leave. The scandal surrounding Âge d'airain sadly remained with Rodin, and it wasn’t until 1880 that he was cleared of all suspicions. In 1879, Edmond Turquet – a supporter of the artist’s work – was named undersecretary to the État aux Beaux-Arts. The following year, Rodin again submitted his evidence and received at last a positive verdict. By way of compensation, the French state acquired a bronze cast of Âge d'airain which was installed in the Luxembourg gardens in 1884, and within three years of that notorious spring Salon, Rodin received the first of several major commissions, La Porte de l'Enfer, supported by Turquet.

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