AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917) L'un des Bourgeois de Calais: Pierre de Wiessant, vêtu, réduction 17 3/4 in (45 cm) (height) (Conceived between 1887-1895, this version reduced in 1895, and cast between 1930-1945)

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Lot 16
L'un des Bourgeois de Calais: Pierre de Wiessant, vêtu, réduction 17 3/4 in (45 cm) (height)

US$ 300,000 - 500,000
£ 230,000 - 390,000

Impressionist & Modern Art

12 Nov 2019, 17:00 EST

New York

AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
L'un des Bourgeois de Calais: Pierre de Wiessant, vêtu, réduction
inscribed 'A. Rodin' (on the base) and with the foundry mark 'ALEXIS RUDIER. Fondeur. Paris' (on the side of the base)
17 3/4 in (45 cm) (height)
Conceived between 1887-1895, this version reduced in 1895, and cast between 1930-1945


  • This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Critique de l'Oeuvre Sculpté d'Auguste Rodin currently being prepared by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay under the archive number 2014-4316B.

    Private Collection, South Africa, and sold: Bonhams, New York, November 4, 2014, lot 12.

    Private collection, Pennsylvania (acquired at the above sale).

    G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, nos. 110-115 (illustration of the complete monumental plaster version p. 52).
    G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, no. 167c (illustration of the plaster version p. 60).
    B. Champigneulle, Rodin, London, 1967, no. 21 (illustration of the complete monumental version p. 66).
    R. Descharnes & J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967 (illustration of the complete monumental bronze version p. 114).
    I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967 (illustration of the complete monumental bronze version pl. 41).
    L. Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970 (illustration of another cast pl. 39, p. 119; illustration of the monumental plaster version pl. 38).
    J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, no. 67-69-13 (illustration of another cast p. 390).
    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. 30 (illustration of the monumental version pp. 137-138).
    A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, no. S.418 (illustration of another cast p. 237).

    Pierre de Wiessant offers the image of suffering in the extreme. His body, bent, like a taut bow, vibrates with pain, his hands, opening like flowers, sing out.'
    Antoinette Le Normand-Romain in Rodin: The Burghers of Calais, Paris, 2001, p. 52.

    With modernization razing Calais' ancient ramparts and the city becoming amalgamated with neighboring townships, the 1884 city council of Calais wanted affirmation of its identity as a historic site. This desire spurred the council to engage Auguste Rodin, already a respected sculptor whose winning bid in 1880 to create the Directorate of Fine Arts began his 37 years-long project, The Gates of Hell, to create a sculpture honoring the city.

    Thus in 1887, Rodin began to conceive of Monument des Bourgeois de Calais. The city council wished for the sculpture to commemorate an episode from the 100 Years War, in which six prominent citizens in 1347 offered themselves as hostages to raise the eleven-month siege of the city by King Edward III of England. Kind Edward's wife, Queen Philippa, upon hearing of this bravery, interceded, and King Edward III spared the town.

    The council had intended for the work to be a traditional heroic statue of Eustache de Saint-Pierre, leader of the group. Rodin, though, was determined to show all six hostages, not as a narrative group glorifying them, but rather as isolated, suffering individuals that as a collective express their harrowing sacrifice. Indeed, one proposal set the figures close to ground level, a radical idea that set the present-day citizens almost at eye level, with their illustrious forbears seeming to walk among them.

    Each figure was initially modeled naked and at actual size before being clothed in rough tunics and with the ropes of their captivity around their necks. The figures are shown departing in their tattered clothes to make their sacrifice and surrender themselves to the English Army. The first three figures, including Pierre de Wiessant, were finished by May 1887 and exhibited at Galerie Georges Petit; the full group was assembled and exhibited for the first time at Rodin's joint exhibition with Claude Monet at the same gallery in June 1889. The full, monumental sculpture was cast in 1894-95 and installed on the site of the historical event itself in the market square of Calais in June 1895. Rodin's decision to compose his figures in a circle and be viewed in-the-round underscores that to Rodin there was no true leader, and each man's sacrifice was as tremendous as the others'.

    Pierre de Wiessant, however, was perhaps the figure with which the sculptor was most satisfied. In the final arrangement he stands at the apex of the group. The records of the réducteur-agrandisseur Henri Lebossé indicate that work on casting reductions began immediately, with reduced casts of Pierre de Wiessant beginning in 1895. Although the citizens cluster around Eustache de Saint-Pierre, their leader, it is Pierre de Wiessant who provides the forward momentum and focus. The figure performs an effortless arabesque, achieved by shifting the axis of the torso at a point between navel and sternum so that the hips and shoulders are oriented along different planes. A centrifugal torsion is thus set up which spins out through the limbs from this point of gravitational focus, simultaneously uniting the group behind him and setting him apart in his balletic grace, a still center of calm.

    Poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who served briefly as Rodin's secretary, lyrically described the intense interiority that the conformation of this figure projects in his 1903 essay on the sculptor: "He created the man with the vague gesture whom Gustave Geffroy has called Le Passant [The man who passes by]. The man moves forward, but he turns back once more, not to the city, not to those who are weeping, and not to those who go with him; he turns back to himself. His right arm is raised, bent, vacillating. His hands open in the air as though to let something go, as one gives freedom to a bird. The gesture is symbolic of a departure from all uncertainty, from a happiness that has not yet been, from a grief that will now wait in vain, from men who live somewhere and whom he might have met sometime, from all possibilities of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow; and from Death which he had thought far distant, that he had imagined would come mildly and softly and at the end of a long, long time" (R.M. Rilke, Auguste Rodin, London, 2006, pp. 84-85).

    Several casts of Pierre de Wiessant, vêtu in this reduced size reside in major institutional collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, Musée Rodin in Paris, Saarland Museum in Saarbrücken and Nasjonalgalleriet in Olso.
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