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)

Monument à Victor Hugo, Esquisse du premier projet pour la deuxième maquette dit aussi "Victor Hugo et les Muses"

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Monument à Victor Hugo, Esquisse du premier projet pour la deuxième maquette dit aussi "Victor Hugo et les Muses"
signed 'A. Rodin' (on the left side); inscribed with foundry mark 'L. PerzinKa Fondeur Versailles' (on the back)
bronze with green and dark brown patina
Height: 15 3/8 in. (39 cm.)
Conceived in March 1890; this bronze version cast between June-September 1900
Countess Martine de Béhague, Paris (acquired from the artist).
Private collection, Paris (by descent from the above, circa 1939).
Galerie Barbizon, Paris (1970).
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (1980).
Harold B. Weinstein, New York (probably acquired from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 16 May 1985, lot 335.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Descharnes and J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 178 (plaster version illustrated; dated 1886-1890).
I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 95.
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1967, p. 414, no. 71-2 (plaster version illustrated, p. 415).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of the Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. II, p. 436 (another cast illustrated).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Auguste Rodin Sculptures, Including Early Casts, January-March 1980.
London, Hayward Gallery, Rodin: Sculpture & Drawings, November 1986-January 1987, no. 133.

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Allegra Bettini
Allegra Bettini

Lot Essay

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 2020-6161B.

In 1889, one year after Victor Hugo’s death, Rodin was commissioned by the Ministry of Fine Arts to create a monument to the great poet in the Panthéon in Paris. Following the initial commission, Rodin created a number of studies for the project, of which this is a variant of the second study. In this version, Rodin has portrayed Hugo fully clothed, leaning on his right arm with three muses—possibly personifications of Hugo’s poems, or perhaps representations of Youth, Maturity, and Old Age—hovering above the poet’s head. The celebrated author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame appears on a rocky crag. This is a reference to his self-imposed exile from France from 1852 to 1870, spent on the isolated Channel Islands, off the coast of Normandy.
Gustave Larroumet of the Ministry of Fine Arts described Rodin’s initial concept for the monument as follows: “Monsieur Rodin has chosen, for his monument, the Victor Hugo of the exile, the one who had the steadfastness to protest for eighteen years against the despotism that had chased him from his homeland. He has considered that the great poet never possessed a greater plenitude of genius than during that period, when he rediscovered the most graceful, as well as the most powerful, inspirations from his youth, and joined to them the gift of political invective and the expression of the most profound human compassion” (M. Roos, “Rodin’s Monument to Victor Hugo: Art and Politics in the Third Republic,” The Art Bulletin, December 1986, pp. 642-643).
Despite Rodin’s dedication to his subject, this version did not please the commissioning committee, who felt that Hugo should be portrayed in a more imposing manner than that of a seated figure surrounded by female allegorical figures. The Ministry rejected Rodin’s first ideas for the monument and the sculptor was obliged to continue revising the composition for another decade. Although Rodin exhibited a plaster version of the monument at the Paris Salon in 1897, and produced several small scale bronzes, he ultimately abandoned the Panthéon project altogether.

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