Lot 15
  • 15

Auguste Rodin

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Auguste Rodin
  • Tête de Saint-Jean Baptiste dans un plat, version de profil
  • signed A. Rodin
  • marble

Provenance

Sale: Galerie Charpentier, Paris, June 1954, lot 18

Private Collection, Paris

Sale: Artcurial, Paris, 3rd December 2013, lot 122

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

Groningen, Groninger Museum, Rodin - Genius at Work, 2016-17

Literature

Ional Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, bronze edition catalogued p. 101

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

Catalogue Note

The subject of Saint John the Baptist was one that Rodin turned to a number of times in his career, capturing him both in life – as a strong preacher and apostle – and at the moment of his martyrdom at the hands of Herod II. This latter was a subject with considerable artistic precedent and one that found particular favour among Rodin’s contemporaries. As Antoinette Le Normand-Romain argues, Rodin’s head was ‘perfectly in tune with the sensibility of the time, lies half way between Symbolism and realism, and testifies to a genuine search for decorative effect’(A. Le Normand-Romain, in Rodin (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, p. 243).

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.  

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