Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) Eternel printemps, second état, 1ère réduction  66.2 x 83 x 41cm (26 1/16 x 32 11/16 x 16 1/8in). (Conceived in 1884, this bronze version executed in this size in 1898, the present work cast between 1905 and 1907)

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Lot 14* W
Auguste Rodin
(French, 1840-1917)
Eternel printemps, second état, 1ère réduction 66.2 x 83 x 41cm (26 1/16 x 32 11/16 x 16 1/8in).

Sold for £ 938,500 (US$ 1,205,082) inc. premium
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Eternel printemps, second état, 1ère réduction
signed 'Rodin' (on the right side of the base) and inscribed with the foundry mark 'F. BARBEDIENNE Fondeur' (on the back of the base), stamped three times 'VL' (on the inside of the base)
bronze with brown-black patina
66.2 x 83 x 41cm (26 1/16 x 32 11/16 x 16 1/8in).
Conceived in 1884, this bronze version executed in this size in 1898, the present work cast between 1905 and 1907


  • 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 & Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay, under archive number 2009-2996B.

    Georges Lang Collection, Lorraine (acquired circa 1910 - 1920).
    Private collection (by descent from the above).
    Private collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in the 1980s).

    L. Maillard, Etudes sur quelques artistes originaux, Auguste Rodin statuaire, Paris, 1899 (marble version illustrated p. 121).
    G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, no. 69.
    G. Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, pl. 56 (another cast illustrated).
    B. Champigneulle, Rodin, London, 1967, nos. 34 - 35 (plaster version illustrated pp. 92, 93).
    I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, pl. 56 - 57 (another cast illustrated pp. 98, 99).
    J. L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, no. 32b (another cast illustrated p. 243).
    A. E. Elsen, Rodin's Art: The Rodin Collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, no. 148 (other casts illustrated pp. 494, 495).
    A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, catalogue of works in the Musée Rodin, Vol. I, Paris, 2007, no. S.2808 (another cast illustrated p. 332).

    Rodin's Eternel printemps: The Intensity of the Present Moment becomes Eternity

    One of Auguste Rodin's most acclaimed sculptures and one of the greatest commercial successes of his career, Eternel printemps was conceived in 1884 while the sculptor was deeply in love with Camille Claudel (1864-1943), who had just joined his studio as an assistant. The group was originally intended for La porte de l'Enfer, the bronze doors inspired by Dante's Inferno that were commissioned in 1880 for a planned museum of decorative arts. As the tone of the commission evolved into darker content, the amorous couple was not part of the final version. The allegorical theme of the embracing lovers brings to mind the story of Paolo and Francesca, Dante's mythical lovers who were condemned to spend eternity locked in a tumult of passion.

    As with many of his great sculptural groupings, Rodin reused, developed and adapted figures from earlier works: he was in a relentless research of the right sculptural words, while constantly changing the grammar and the syntax of his sentences. The female figure of the group is based on Rodin's sensuous Torse d'Adèle (named after Adèle Abbruzzesi, one of Rodin's favorite Italian models), which appears on the top left corner of the tympanum of La porte de l'Enfer.

    In 1886, Rodin gave a plaster cast of Eternel printemps to Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), to thank him for his letter defending him against the accusation of being the 'Zola of sculpture' in the London Times of September 6, 1886. The group, dedicated 'à R. L. Stevenson, au sympathique Artiste, au grand et cher poète. Rodin' (to R. L. Stevenson, the sympathetic artist, the important and beloved poet. Rodin), was one of the possessions that Stevenson took with him when he left Europe in 1888.

    Rodin later claimed that the idea for the present bronze came to him while listening to Beethoven's Second Symphony. He confided 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' (quoted in The Bronzes of Rodin, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, p. 336). Also titled Zéphyr et la Terre and Cupidon et Psyché (both mythological titles intended to justify the eroticism of the subject), the group was exhibited at the Salon of 1897. Due to its popularity, Rodin executed a second version of Eternel printemps, with an extended base and a rocky outcrop to support the left arm and outstretched leg of the male figure. This version became the model for the Barbedienne series which was produced in four sizes over a period of twenty years from 1898 to 1918.

    On 6 July 1898 and due to the high demand of such romantic sculptures, Rodin signed an exclusive ten-year contract (renewable on expiration for another decade) with Gustave Leblanc-Barbedienne (1849-1945), nephew of the foundry's founder Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892), for the edition in bronze of Le baiser and Eternel printemps in different sizes. A plaster made from a cast of a marble was initially given to the foundry Leblanc-Barbedienne who produced reductions using Achille Collas's machine of mechanical reduction, for which Barbedienne had the patent. The plaster was returned to the Musée Rodin in 1918 at the sculptor's death and the expiration of the second contract. Each sale gave rise to a commission of 20% given to Rodin as copyright. Eternel printemps was cast in bronze and sold in four different sizes known as No. 1 (66 cm, fifty-eight casts sold between 1898 and 1918), No. 2 (50 cm, thirty-three casts sold between 1900 and 1918), No. 3 (40 cm, eighty-three casts sold between 1898 and 1918) and No. 4 (25 cm, sixty-three casts sold between 1898 and 1918). The foundry mark of Barbedienne is an important indication that the bronze sculpture was a lifetime cast, produced before Rodin's death in November 1917. The letters VL stamped on the present work indicate a date of circa 1905-1907, during Rodin's lifetime.

    In Eternel printemps the two bodies intertwine in a passionate embrace, which is also a remarkable act of precarious balance and a combination of concave and convex curves. The two figures are placed on a rough base that does not seem large enough to contain them. The female figure is kneeling and her lower legs take up most of the foundation. The male figure seems to be flying and there are indeed small Cupid's wings on his back. He is trying to occupy the mere millimeters of space available for him to stand. His feet are not actually supported by the ground, one hanging off the base, the other still in mid-air. His right arm is completely wrapped around the female figure, grasping her tightly under her arm on the other side. His left arm is outstretched and curved as though he is just about to bring that arm around her: her kneeling body is his only support. In this remarkable sculpture the two precariously balanced lovers are caught in the intensity of the emotional moment that becomes Eternity. Collectors have always been attracted to the powerful combination of passionate lyricism and tender romanticism, essential to this work.

    Anna Tahinci, Ph. D.

    Professor and Head of Art History

    The Glassell School of Art

    Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel

    Second only to Michelangelo (to whom Auguste Rodin always professed to be an apprentice) is the influence of Camille Claudel on Rodin's life and art. We cannot underestimate the seismic effect that the arrival of his most brilliant of pupils had on the master upon their meeting in 1882.

    Joining his studio in the company on three young English sculptors Amy Singer, Emily Fawcett and Jessie Lipscomb, Claudel had been an apprentice of Alfred Boucher and had shown a startling talent for moulding and sculpting in clay from a young age. She was indulged by a wealthy and devoted father, who moved the Claudel family to Paris specifically to encourage Camille's training as a sculptor. She was happily working with Boucher and attending classes at the Académie Colarossi when the sculptor was awarded the Grand Prix at the Paris Salon and had to leave for Italy. In need of a mentor to whom he could entrust the young women's apprenticeships, Boucher enlisted his great friend Rodin to take them into his studio in Meudon.

    Claudel's arrival in Rodin's studio came just after he had received two career-changing commissions: La porte de l'Enfer (1880) and Les Bourgeois de Calais (1884). Rodin's atelier was by this point a bustling workplace with many assistants and apprentices. Rodin had created a vast number of single figures and groups during the conception of the La porte de l'Enfer, many of which would go on to be cast as independent works and would prove to be some of his most enduring motifs. Among these was the Eternel printemps – originally executed as a study for La porte, but it was clear that this sensual work was far too hopeful in tone to be accommodated amongst the damned souls of his furious final composition.

    The impetus behind this new romanticism was undoubtedly the awakening of an affair between Claudel and Rodin, which began almost as soon as she arrived at his studio. While Rodin had had many liaisons with assistants and models, Camille Claudel had a much deeper effect on his work and his personal life than those that had come before. Rodin promised the young apprentice that he would leave his life-long partner Rose Beuret (another assistant that Rodin would only come to marry in 1916, shortly before she died) and even drafted a makeshift contract declaring his loyalty to Claudel. Sadly this promise was never fulfilled.

    The influence they had on each other was enormous: the twisted forms and oversized hands and feet of the figures in Eternel printemps bear the hallmark of Rodin's high style, aspects that Claudel and he would develop almost in tandem. The complex 'X' structure that Rodin adopted for this work is visible also in Sakuntala (1886) – a similarly passionate work by Claudel where the genders are swapped, the woman seated, bending down in an embrace while her male companion kneels on the floor. Furthermore, the Eternel printemps can be seen to have its true companion piece in La Valse of 1889, one of Claudel's most celebrated pieces where the two lovers are entwined in abandonment, unaware of the gaze of the beholder.

    In a letter to Claudel dating to 1886, during the very period in which the Eternel printemps was created, Rodin speaks of his 'furious love' and 'violent passion' for her (Musée Rodin, L.1451). This exuberance of emotion is clear not only in his words but in the sculptures he made at this time. The very title of the Eternel printemps suggests a moment of enduring love, a moment in which an affair seems to be forever assured, when the flames of passion are never to be extinguished. The dynamism of the pose, with arms flung wide, communicates this abandon with simple poetry.

    Indeed, this was a fervent love affair, conducted beyond the boundaries of polite society. Claudel's mother and brother did not approve of her liaison with the great artist and soon after her father's death she was cut off financially with no familial support. As it became clear that Rodin would never leave Rose Beuret or fulfil his promises to Claudel their tumultuous relationship came to an end, and she left his studio to pursue her own career. This painful separation and heartbreak, felt no doubt by both parties, is famously represented in Claudel's masterpiece, L'Âge mûr.

    As Rodin's position as France's leading sculptor became ever more solidified in the years following their separation, Claudel's mental deterioration began in earnest and the paranoia surrounding Rodin that she felt took hold. Convinced that Rodin was poisoning collectors and public figures against her, the sculptor continued to work in a more intimate style, influenced by the burgeoning Japonisme of the time. Works such as La Vague show a real departure from the 'heroic' style she so perfected under the tutelage of Rodin but her genius remained in the ground-breaking use of polychrome marbles and plays on scale.

    Despite her fears, Rodin continued to help Claudel anonymously in supporting her career and occasionally covering her studio rent. This simply was not enough to delay her descent in to mental and financial ruin, and in 1913 her family committed her to an asylum where she spent the final 30 years of her life. She did not sculpt again.
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