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 2013-4277B.
L'éternel printemps was one of Rodin's most popular compositions and greatest commercial successes. Originally conceived as a figural grouping for La porte de l'enfer, an element intended to highlight ‘all the stages of love’, the joyous couple ultimately proved incongruous with the tragic tone of the larger composition and was not included in the final version (A.E. Elsen, Rodin Rediscovered, Washington, D.C., 1981, p. 494).
The present work may also reflect the emotional impact of Rodin's personal life, as he sculpted the blissful embrace while involved in an affair with the beautiful sculptor, Camille Claudel, who had entered his studio as a pupil the previous year. This new wellspring of romantic passion may have further induced Rodin to abandon the politesse of allegorical convention and instead depict romantic love in deeply intimate, individual terms. Rodin also claimed that the idea for the present bronze came to him while listening to Beethoven's sublime Second Symphony. He confided much later to Jeanne Russell, the daughter of the Australian painter John Russell: ‘God, how [Beethoven] must have suffered to write that! And yet, it was while listening to it for the first time that I pictured Eternal Springtime, just as I have modeled it since’ (Rodin quoted in The Bronzes of Rodin, Paris, 2007, p. 336). However, Rodin, having already experienced how artistic fidelity to the natural contours of the human body without reference to a readily identifiable subject greatly shocked contemporary critics, named the work Zéphyr et la terre and then exhibited the sculpture as Cupidon et Psyché in the Paris Salon of 1897 (small vestiges of Cupid's wings on the back of the male figure attest to this short-lived name). Finally loosened from mythological narrative, the work appeared under its present title at an exhibition in 1900.
The present example, cast between 1900 and 1905, during the artist's lifetime, was given as a gift to Daniel Vincent by the Ecoles Primaires Supérieures de France. A well-known teacher and politician, he served as Minister of Labor in 1921–1922 when he introduced France's first social insurance bill. He also served in various cabinets as Minister of Education, Minister of Commerce and Minister of Public Works, becoming Minister of Education and Fine Arts in the cabinet of Paul Painlevé in 1917.