- Auguste Rodin
- Tête de Saint-Jean Baptiste dans un plat, version de profil
- signed A. Rodin
- length: 37.3cm.
- 14 5/8 in.
Private Collection, Paris
Sale: Artcurial, Paris, 3rd December 2013, lot 122
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, no. 21-3, another version illustrated p. 206
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. II, another marble version illustrated p. 648
The saint evidently held great appeal for the artist, who described him as a visionary and a man of nature and included his severed head in the scheme for his masterpiece The Gates of Hell. However, whilst in his earlier sculpture of the saint Rodin concentrated on the physicality of his model, in the present work Rodin focuses on the unique expressivity of the face. In showing the head alone, without the wider context of a body or a victorious Salome, Rodin was not only acknowledging Symbolist influences, but also transforming the sculpted work into a something approaching a devotional object. John L. Tancock argues that this may have been the case, writing: ‘Rodin, with his considerable knowledge of medieval and Renaissance sculpture, may be expected to have been familiar with earlier versions of this subject. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries chargers with the heads of St. John the Baptist were utilized as devotional images’ (J. L.Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, p. 205). Equally, Rodin may have had in mind the work of Caravaggio who made two versions of the subject and whose painting so skilfully treads the line between devotion and expression. In Rodin, the result is a work of powerful expressivity that captures both the pathos of the moment and the enduring grace of his subject.