Sir Valentine Abdy, Bt, Paris (by descent from the above)
Marlborough Gallery, New York (acquired from the above by 1984)
Sylvester Stallone, Los Angeles (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 13th May 1998, lot 12)
Private Collection (purchased at the above sale)
Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin, Leipzig, 1922, another cast illustrated pls. 22 & 23
Léonce Bénédite, Rodin – A Series of 60 Photogravure Plates, London, 1924, another cast illustrated pl. XVI
Judith Cladel, Auguste Rodin, sa vie glorieuse, sa vie inconnue, Paris, 1936, mentioned pp. 142- 143
Georges Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Monaco, 1944, another cast illustrated p. 44
Marcel Aubert, Rodin Sculptures, Paris, 1952, another cast illustrated p. 21
Albert E. Elsen, Auguste Rodin, London, 1962, another cast illustrated p. 51
Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1962, another cast illustrated p. 61
Albert E. Elsen, Auguste Rodin, Readings on his Life and Work, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1965, another cast illustrated p. 164
Robert Descharnes & Jean-François Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Paris, 1967, another cast illustrated in colour p. 99
Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, a plaster version illustrated pl. 17
Albert E. Elsen, Rodin, London, 1974, another cast illustrated p. 51
John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin. The Collection of the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1976, another cast illustrated pp. 149 & 151
Jacques de Caso & Patricia B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture. A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, San Francisco, 1977, a plaster version illustrated p. 142
Albert E. Elsen, In Rodin’s Studio, A Photographic record of sculpture in the making, Ithaca, New York, 1980, another cast illustrated pls. 24-26
Clare Vincent, 'Rodin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A History of the Collection', in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. XXXVIII, no. 4, Spring 1981, another cast illustrated p. 4
Albert E. Elsen, The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin, Stanford, 1985, pp. 74-78, no. 64, another cast illustrated
Alain Beausire, Quand Rodin exposait, Paris, 1988, a plaster version illustrated p. 209
Ruth Butler, Rodin, The Shape of Genius, New Haven & London, 1993, another cast illustrated p. 161
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, illustrations of another cast pp. 338-340, 345 & 347
Rainer Maria Rilke
One of the most significant works in his œuvre, Rodin’s striking conception of Eve was among the earliest figures modelled for, or at least in conjunction with, his great project for La Porte de l‘Enfer. Rodin began work on this in 1880 following an official commission for a monumental door to grace the entrance to the planned building for the new museum of decorative arts in Paris. Many of the sculptures planned for this project – including Eve – would ultimately evolve as separate works and are now considered to be among the artist’s greatest achievements.
Rodin originally envisaged a scheme of decoration based on Dante’s Divine Comedy that would take the form of a compartmentalised bas-relief, but over time this design was adapted to embody a more unified composition in the style of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. Rodin planned to place his figure of Adam (initially conceived as an independent work and exhibited for the first time in 1881) on one side of the gate with Eve as a pendant opposite. Work on Eve began as Adam was being finished, with Rodin choosing a young Italian model generally identified as one of the Abbruzzesi sisters. Whilst Adam – who was originally exhibited under the title Creation of Man – depicts the moment of creation, Rodin’s Eve is shown in the moment of recognising man’s sin. With one arm raised to shield her face, and her other arm curved protectively over her chest, she lowers her head and gazes downwards; rather than depicting her as a temptress, this powerful work emphasises the realisation of her shame.
Eve belongs to the group of major early works inspired by Michelangelo, whose sculpture deeply affected Rodin when he first visited Italy in 1875. Her distinctive posture can be found both in Michelangelo’s fresco for the Sistine Chapel depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (fig. 2) and in his group of sculptures depicting slaves. The latter provide a particularly intriguing counterpoint to Rodin’s work with their unfinished state anticipating some of his later and more radical sculptural experiments.
Interestingly, circumstance would mean that in her final incarnation Eve would also retain the rough modelling and unfinished air that is more commonly associated with the artist’s later work. As Rodin later explained to Etienne Dujardin-Beaumetz: ‘Without knowing why, I saw my model changing. I modified my contours, naively following successive transformations of ever-amplifying forms. One day I learned that she was pregnant; then I understood. The contours of the belly had hardly changed, but you can see the sincerity with which I copied nature by looking at the muscles of the loins and the sides […]. It certainly hadn’t occurred to me to take a pregnant woman as a model for Eve; an accident – fortunate for me – gave her to me, and singularly helped with the character of the figure’ (quoted in A. Le Normand-Romain, op. cit., p. 345). As well as imbuing the work with a greater symbolism, this development also had a dramatic effect on the practical progression of the sculpture. As Rodin recalled, the cold of his studio – and presumably the discomfort of posing for long hours – eventually proved too much for his model. Following her departure, Rodin ceased work on the sculpture, leaving it in the state that we know today.
It was not until 1899 that Rodin exhibited a life-size Eve, although he seems to have contemplated casting the work in bronze as early as 1886 and he continued work on the smaller incarnations of the subject. The occasion of his first exhibition of the full-size bronze of Eve at the Paris Salon was much commented upon. Already known and greatly admired from the smaller-scale bronzes of the subject, Rodin’s typically innovative decision to place her at ground level, in direct proximity to her audience, presented Eve in a new light. Many viewers were disconcerted by this decision, although it seems only to have emphasised the great emotive strength of the work. As Louis de Fourcaud wrote on seeing the exhibition: ‘Mr. Rodin’s Eve is one of the most magnificently invented statues that I know […]. One cannot imagine a more expressive and powerful silhouette. The inner construction has a force that no other sculptor, in this day and age, has mastered to such a degree’ (L. de Fourcaud in ibid., p. 347).
The present cast belonged to the collection of the Abdy family for several decades. Sir Robert Abdy (1896-1976), known as Bertie, was an English baronet who was married three times and was widely known in artistic circles in London and Paris from the 1930s onwards. Though he acted as a private dealer for much of his life, and latterly ran the Ferrers gallery, named after his estate in Cornwall, Abdy is better remembered for the unique circle of friends he made on both sides of the English Channel, which included the writers Evelyn Waugh and Getrude Stein, as well as eccentrics like the Mitford sisters and Lord Berners. In her autobiography Gertrude Stein described Abdy, who had offered his help in publishing her works: ‘In English novels a baronet is always villainous or peculiar and sometimes both, I have in my life known two baronets and they are not at all villainous, they are gentle and sweet but they are peculiar, Bertie Abdy is one’. Besides his activities as a dealer, Abdy was fortunate enough to amass a considerable personal collection of paintings and sculpture by some of the greatest artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Rodin, Derain and Balthus amongst others. This sculpture was inherited by his son, Sir Valentine, and was subsequently acquired by the actor Sylvester Stallone, who owned several major works by Rodin.
Fig. 1, A bronze of Eve in the atelier du Dépôt des marbres, 1881. Photograph by Eugene Druet
Fig. 2, Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Expulsion, circa 1511, fresco, Sistine Chapel, Rome
Fig. 3, Gustav Klimt, Adam and Eve, 1917-18 (unfinished), oil on canvas, Belvedere, Vienna
Fig. 4, Edward Steichen, Rodin with Eve, 1907, autochrome, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig. 5, A photograph of Constantin Brancusi's Eve, 1919, Centre Pompidou, Paris
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