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

Balzac, étude type C (buste), 1ère version, petit modèle

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Balzac, étude type C (buste), 1ère version, petit modèle
signed 'A.Rodin' (on the left shoulder) and inscribed with the foundry mark '.Alexis.Rudier. .Fondeur.Paris.' (on the right shoulder); stamped in relief 'A.Rodin' (on the inside)
bronze with brown and black patina
Height: 6 in. (15.3 cm.)
Conceived in 1892, this cast executed by Alexis Rudier between 1918 and 1927
Galerie Haussmann, Paris.
Private collection, London, and thence by descent to the present owner.
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, no. S.1079 (other versions illustrated pp. 168-169).

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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 Rodin at Galerie Brame et Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay under the archive number 2014-4379B.

Balzac, étude type C is one of the first studies executed by Rodin in 1892, in preparation for his momentous portrait of the famous French author Honoré de Balzac. This bronze was executed by the foundry Alexis Rudier for the dealer Gustave Danthon. Gustave Danthon acquired the rights to reproduce bronzes from the plaster Balzac, type C, this plaster was given by Rodin to Dr Joseph Charles Mardrus. Dr Mardrus and Gustave Danthon settled an agreement dated 15 February 1918 on bronze reproductions (documentation of this agreement is archived at the musée Rodin).

Rodin was commissioned with a monument to Balzac in July 1891 by the Société des Gens de Lettres, at the time chaired by Émile Zola. Enthusiastic about the project, the artist immediately began to research his subject, examining every existing representation of Balzac. Persuaded of the relevance of regional physiognomy, Rodin went as far as visiting Balzac’s native Touraine to look for a model. There he found a driver, Monsieur Estager, whose features strikingly resembled Balzac’s own. From Estager, Rodin executed two masks which provided the sculptor with the starting point of Balzac figure.

The present study was derived from those first experiments and it was then used for the first full-figure study of Balzac, the so-called ‘Nude study C’. Portraying Balzac with arms crossed over a generous belly, standing with legs wide open that first idea proved too daring and too lifelike for the Société des Gens de Lettres. Rodin eventually completed the final model for the monument to Balzac in 1897.

Capturing Rodin’s concern for realism, Balzac, étude type C is a testimony to the fascinating working methods of one of the greatest sculptors of the modern era.

A reduction of the face as well as different versions of the bust with variants were executed in 1918 by Gustave Danthon after the death of the artist. The musée Rodin bought back in 1927 and 1933 the majority of the plaster models and their reproduction rights. To our knowledge, Gustave Danthon executed at least 3 bronzes of this bust, 1ère version, petit modèle.

The provenance of this work can be traced back to one of the leading early 20th century English collections of work by French artists. The work is offered by the Executors of the late Lady Ivor Churchill, and was part of the collection of Lord Ivor Churchill (1898-1956). From a young age, Lord Ivor Churchill was a highly regarded patron of the arts, and an extremely active champion of the art of his time, both French and English, particularly through his work with The Contemporary Art Society. He assembled one of the leading English private collections of its time, including masterpieces by Cézanne, Ingres, Corot, Monet, Pissarro, Matisse, Bonnard and Seurat amongst many others. A number of works from his collection were donated, via the Contemporary Art Society, to leading museums, including the Tate.

In addition to paintings, he was a particularly keen collector of sculpture. His obituary in The Times notes that ‘He preferred....painting of the more solid kind, and it was not surprising that his collection should contain a larger proportion of sculpture than is common’. This work by Rodin is typical of the works that were in the collection by the late 1920s, consistent with its lcasting date.

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