AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917) Faunesse à genoux 53.6cm (21 1/8in) high. (Conceived circa 1884, this bronze version cast in 1966 from an edition of 9 executed by the Georges Rudier foundry between 1954 and 1969.)

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Lot 24*
AUGUSTE RODIN
(1840-1917)
Faunesse à genoux 53.6cm (21 1/8in) high.

Sold for £ 175,000 (US$ 218,563) inc. premium
PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR
AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Faunesse à genoux
signed 'A. Rodin' (on the front of the base), inscribed and dated '© by musée Rodin 1966' and inscribed with the foundry mark 'Georges Rudier. Fondeur. Paris' (on the rim of the base) and stamped with the raised signature 'A. Rodin' (on the inside of the base)
bronze with black-brown patina
53.6cm (21 1/8in) high.
Conceived circa 1884, this bronze version cast in 1966 from an edition of 9 executed by the Georges Rudier foundry between 1954 and 1969.

Footnotes

  • 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.

    Provenance
    Musée Rodin, Paris.
    Charles Slatkin Galleries, New York (acquired from the above on 3 August 1967).
    Mr & Mrs Charles H. Oestreich Collection, New York (acquired from the above on 24 August 1967).
    Joan Oestreich Kend Collection (by descent from the above); her sale, Sotheby's, New York, 15 November 2016, lot 164.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

    Exhibited
    London, Bowman Sculpture, Rodin, the Birth of Modern Sculpture, 7 June – 27 July 2017, no. 3780.

    Literature
    R. Descharnes & J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, London, 1967 (another cast illustrated p. 77).
    L. Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970 (plaster version illustrated pl. 32).
    J. L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, The Collection of the Rodin Museum Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1976 (another cast illustrated p. 169).
    A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Vol. II, Paris, 2007 (another cast illustrated p. 628).

    'I state quite clearly that when I have nothing to copy, I have no ideas; but when I see nature showing me forms, I immediately find something worth saying and even worth developing. Sometimes one believes that there is nothing to be found in a model, and then nature suddenly reveals something of herself, a strip of flesh appears, and that scrap of truth reveals the whole truth and allows one to leap with one bound to the absolute principle that lies behind things' (A. Rodin quoted in (Auguste Rodin quoted in C. Lampert, Rodin, Sculpture & Drawings, exh. cat., London, 1986, p. 61).

    Boldly expressive and daringly sensual, Faunesse à genoux is considered to be one of the early studies for August Rodin's career-defining commission, La porte de l'enfer. Rodin attained this prestigious, state-sponsored commission in 1880, when he was a relatively unknown, mid-career artist working for three francs an hour at the government ceramics factory in Sèvres. The project was initially conceived for the creation of a decorative door based upon Rodin's interpretation of Dante's La Divina Commedia and intended for the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. In the event, the Museum was not built, nor were the doors ever called for delivery by the government, yet Rodin had staked his entire career on the accomplishment of this audacious project and so, over the course of its realisation, it grew to become an emblem of Rodin's entire oeuvre - evolving into the most seminal work by one of history's greatest sculptors.

    With funds from the commission Rodin hired numerous female models to inhabit his studios, enabling him to study and respond to the female form at any given opportunity. These models were a source of great inspiration for Rodin and he viewed the interaction between model and artist as integral to his working method: 'A model is...more than a means whereby the artist expresses a sentiment, thought or experience; it is a correlative inspiration to him. They work together as a productive force' (Auguste Rodin quoted in C. Lampert, ibid. p. 82). Working quickly in the malleable clay, Rodin was able to capture the uninhibited movement of these nude figures, exploring the sensual possibilities of form and depicting the female body in a strikingly modern way. As the contemporary critic Camille Mauclair noted: 'The Door corresponds to the period when Rodin was preoccupied...with creating by the intensity of movement and the originality of figural attitudes and silhouettes, a new drama in his art that the taste of his time had fixed in a false 'neo-Greek' nobility obtained by the immobility, the inertia of silhouettes, the fear of seeing too lively movement break the general harmony. To look for a new harmony in the study of movement, to create instead of a static art, a dynamic art, that was...Rodin's idea' (Camille Mauclair quoted in C. Lampert, ibid., p. 55).

    In the definitive version of La porte de l'enfer, Faunesse à genoux appears to the left of Le Penseur in the recessed tympanum above the lintel of the doors. In Rodin's conceptualisation, this tableau-like box came to represent Purgatory, with the Arrival on the left and Judgement on the right. Positioned with outstretched arms, here we see a variation of Faunesse à genoux holding a couple aloft, a grouping later known in the marble version as Orpheaus et les Maenads.

    Faunesse à genoux was however derived from a much earlier work. It was well-known that Rodin incorporated formerly successful subjects into the commission to be certain of their emotional impact. The earliest known version of the present work is that of a plaster dated 1884 belonging to a collector by the name of Stenesco. A plaster version of the model was also photographed in Rodin's studio in 1887 and later publicly exhibited at the George Petit Gallery at the Monet - Rodin exhibition in 1889, where the writer and collector, Gustave Geffroy, described the work in the preface to the catalogue as a figure whose 'slender, supple torso sways like a flower, [who], with hands clasped behind her head, makes a febrile movement of seduction and mockery, laughing all over her terrifyingly animal, feminine, mortuary face' (A. Le Normand-Romain, op. cit., p. 628).

    Representing a being from Roman mythology, the female faun was traditionally depicted as part woman, part goat. In Rodin's portrayal of the creature however, he reimagines her as a seductive, alluring female - the only reference to her preternatural nature revealed through her expressively rendered, almost bestial facial features. This association in Rodin's thinking between the kneeling fauness and the femme fatale archetype is emphasised through his drawing of the subject to illustrate the poem 'Le Guignon' for Charles Baudelaire's famously erotic volume, Les Fleurs du Mal. Fourteen years later it is fitting that Edvard Munch also chose to illustrate Faunesse à genoux in his etching Veranda after viewing the work at the home of the renowned German collector, Max Linde, in 1902. As J. L. Tancock observes, 'Munch's highly ambivalent attitude towards women and the female principle makes it seem almost inevitable that he should have been attracted to Rodin's sensual but glowering creature. As desirable as it is threatening, it seems to be the physical embodiment of certain of Munch's voracious females' (J. L. Tancock, op. cit., p. 168).

    Through a combination of refined figurative modelling, not inconsistent with the prevailing style of eighteenth century roccocco, and the rough, plastic treatment of the figure's face – Rodin daringly defies contemporary expectations pertaining to form and subject, creating a remarkably modern and enduring work. Early collectors repeatedly acknowledged the sculpture's potent effect on them, describing it as a 'muse' or expressing the desire to 'possess her', and the fact that Rodin returned to the subject time and again, realising several variations through his career, is testament to its importance not only among collectors but also within Rodin's oeuvre as a whole.
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