Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) Le baiser, 4ème réduction ou petit modèle
Lot 2
Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) Le baiser, 4ème réduction ou petit modèle
Sold for £175,250 (US$ 297,000) inc. premium
Lot Details
Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
Le baiser, 4ème réduction ou petit modèle
signed 'Rodin' (on the right side of the base); inscribed with foundry mark 'F. BARBEDIENNE. Fondeur' (on the left side of the base), and workshop assistant stamps 'S' (twice) and 'VL' (to the interior)
bronze with brown patina
25.2cm (9 15/16in). (height)
Conceived in 1886 (and in this reduced size in 1898), this bronze version cast between 1905 and 1910

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Private collection, Poland (circa 1930).
    Thence by descent to the present owner.

    SELECTED LITERATURE
    R.M. Rilke, Auguste Rodin, London, 1917 (another cast illustrated pl. 6).
    G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, nos. 91-92, p. 47 (plaster version illustrated no. 91).
    G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, no. 71 (marble version illustrated).
    G. Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1947 (marble version illustrated).
    C. Goldscheider, Rodin, sa vie, son oeuvre, son héritage, Paris, 1962 (marble version illustrated p. 49).
    A.E. Elsen, Rodin, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1963, (larger bronze version illustrated p. 63).
    B. Champigneulle, Rodin, London, 1967, nos. 78-79 (marble version illustrated pp. 162-163).
    R. Descharnes & J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967 (marble version illustrated p. 131).
    I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967 (marble version illustrated pls. 54-55).
    L. Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970, no. 49 (marble version illustrated p. 121).
    J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976 (marble version illustrated p. 77).
    J. de Caso and P.B. Sanders, Rodin Sculpture, exh. cat., The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 1977 (another cast illustrated pp. 148 & 150).
    A.E. Elsen, In Rodin's Studio, A Photographic Record of Sculpture in the Making, Ithaca, 1980 (marble version illustrated on the cover).
    H. Pinet, Rodin, sculpteur et les photographes de son temps, Paris, 1985, no. 34 (marble version illustrated p. 46).
    N. Barbier, Marbres de Rodin: Collection du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1987, no. 79 (marble version illustrated p. 185).
    F.V. Grunfeld, Rodin, A Biography, New York, 1987, pp. 187-190, 221-222, 260, 262, 275-276, 281-282, 342, 373-374, 400, 457 and 577.
    P. Kjellberg, Les bronzes du XIXe siècle, Paris, 1987 (another cast illustrated p. 585).
    D. Finn and M. Busco, Rodin and his Contemporaries: The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collection, New York, 1991 (another cast illustrated pp. 60-61).
    A.E. Elsen, Rodin's Art, The Rodin Collection of Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, no. 49 (another cast illustrated pp. 214-215).
    A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, vol. I, Paris, 2007, (another cast illustrated p. 161).

    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 archive number 2013-4111B.

    Le Baiser can truly be called an iconic sculpture. The spiralling composition of nude figures caught entwined in a moment of tender passion resonates with something at the very heart of romantic human experience. It is this universal appeal which has undoubtedly contributed to its enduring popularity.

    The model first appears in the third terracotta maquette for La Porte de l'Enfer commissioned by the French State in 1880 for the proposed Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. In the increasingly convoluted composition Rodin drew inspiration from Dante's Inferno, and for Le Baiser specifically on the tragic fate of Paolo and Francesca, the two wretched lovers who Dante meets in the second circle of Hell.

    The tale of Paolo and Francesca warned against the perils of illicit love and was a popular theme in 19th century art. The story is drawn from the history of medieval Italy: Francesca da Rimini and Gianciotto Malatesta were married in around 1275 in a political union designed to end hostilities between their two families. During an absence from the city Gianciotto sent for his handsome younger brother Paolo to guard his wife. In the course of their companionship, Paolo and Francesca fell deeply in love.

    The moment of the kiss comes as the lovers read the Legend of Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. In Dante's version Paolo initiates the fateful kiss. The book drops from his hand and just at the moment their lips touch, Gianciotti returns unexpectedly. Enraged at their double infidelity Gianciotti kills them both, and from that moment the lovers are condemned to spend eternity locked in their adulterous embrace, driven by the winds of hell.

    This forbidden love and the ensuing eternal damnation was one of Rodin's favourite themes, as it had been for many other artists particularly during the Romantic era. Ingres drew inspiration from the tale in his painting Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, 1819. In his version he faithfully recreates the scene as described by Dante. The figures are clothed in 14th century dress and Francesca's turned head and apparent coyness are in keeping with contemporary expectations of female decorum.

    Rodin's sculpture, meanwhile, eliminates the constraints of time and place. His naked couple bear no visible references to anchor them to their characters. In 1887 when Rodin first exhibited a plaster version of the free-standing sculpture, then entitled Francesca da Rimini, in Brussels, a contemporary critic declared 'Can anyone tell me what Francesca, be she da Rimini has to do with this?' (Solvay [27 Sept 1887] quoted in A. Le Normand-Romain, Le Baiser, The Kiss, Paris, 1995, p. 9). Indeed, it was due to the suggestions of critics after this exhibition and another in 1887 that Rodin was persuaded to use the generic title of Le Baiser for the work.

    In a departure from previous portrayals, Rodin also invests his figures with assertiveness and vigour. Francesca here drapes her arm possessively around her lover's neck, even stretching her leg over the slightly hesitant Paolo. Further, the light dancing over the undulating contours of their bodies appears to infuse them with a shimmering vitality.

    In 1903 Rainer Maria Rilke noted that, 'the spell of the great group of the girl and man named The Kiss lies in understanding distribution of life. In this group waves flow through the bodies, a shuddering ripple, a thrill of strength and a presaging beauty. This is the reason why one beholds everywhere on these bodies the ecstasy of this kiss. It is like a sun which rises and floods all with light.' (R.M. Rilke, Rodin, London, 1946, p. 25).

    After the great success of the large marble version of Le Baiser at the 1889 Salon de la Société nationale de Beaux-Arts, Paris, there was an early demand for bronze versions. Rodin had only begun casting his work on a smaller scale at the request of friends and collectors a few years earlier. He decided to create four reductions of the Le Baiser in 1898 and on the 6th of July signed a contract with the Leblanc-Barbedienne foundry authorising the editions. This 25cm high cast, although fourth in size, is one of the first two reductions of the model and is taken from the 1898 version. Two further reductions of 40cm and 61cm were added in 1901 and 1904. The interior structure, inscriptions and stamps correspond to the editions made by Barbedienne and the stamps to its interior allow us to date this cast to 1905-1910, during the lifetime of the sculptor.
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