PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, GERMANY
Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, nos. 110-115, illustration of the complete monumental plaster version p. 52
Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, no. 167c, illustration of the plaster p. 60
Robert Descharnes & Jean-François Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, illustration of the complete monumental bronze version p. 114
Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, illustration of the complete monumental bronze version pl. 41
Ludwig Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970, illustration of another cast pl. 39; illustration of the monumental plaster version pl. 38
John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, no. 67-69-13, illustration of another cast p. 390
Claudie Judrin, Monique Laurent & Dominique Viéville, Auguste Rodin, Le monument des Bourgeois de Calais (1884-1895), Paris & Calais, 1977, no. 87, illustration of another cast p. 223
Jacques de Caso & Patricia B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture, A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, San Francisco, 1977, no. 44, illustration of another cast p.223
Albert 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. 137-38
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of the Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, illustration of another cast p. 237
In 1884 Rodin was approached by the mayor of Calais to create a monument to the celebrated burghers of the city, who in 1347 had offered themselves to the King of England, Edward III in return for the lifting of a year long siege of the town. Edward agreed on condition that the burghers presented themselves wearing nooses, sackcloth and carrying the keys to the city. The lives of the burghers were spared, but in the moment depicted by Rodin they are shown in expectation of their deaths. Pierre de Wiessant was the fourth burgher to offer his life, immediately after his brother Jacques de Wiessant. Their heroic act and that of the four burghers who accompanied them is commemorated in Rodin's monumental sculpture Les Bourgeois de Calais now widely recognised as one of the greatest achievements in modern sculpture. Rodin worked tirelessly on developing the character of the individual figures and rather than idealising the men he sought to explore the physical and psychological tension occasioned by this historic event.
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain writes that '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 & Annette Haudiquet, Rodin: The Burghers of Calais, Paris, 2001, p. 52).
The present work, cast in 1906, is an extremely rare lifetime bronze of the final, clothed version of Pierre de Wiessant. Having palpable gravitas it is further distinguished by its exceptional patina, executed by Jean Limet. Limet's talent was unparalleled and he was known for the exceptionally high standards he applied to every detail of the casts he finished, at times even reworking foundry imperfections himself. Rodin used Limet almost exclusively from 1890, relying on him to give his bronzes their distinctive patinas. Rodin was so reliant on Limet's finishing that he continued to send Limet his casts even after the patinator moved his studio 100 kilometers north of Paris to the Bay of Somme. This cast bears a beautifully nuanced patina which, when closely examined, reveals a breathtaking combination of rose and blue grey hues within its subtle surface. This rare gris de mer finish lends an extra dimension to the superb quality of this sculpture.
The present cast was given to Prof. Dr. Albert Osterrieth by the Board of the German Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property to mark the occasion of his marriage in 1905. A letter from Rodin's secretary, dated 30th January 1906 (fig. 1), describes his forthcoming visit to the studio of the artist to make a choice of subject and cast. The work has remained with his descendents ever since. Other casts of this sculpture are in major international museums, including Nasjonalgalleriet in Oslo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and Kunsthalle in Bremen.
Fig. 1, A letter from Rodin's secretary, dated 30th January 1906, comfirming Prof. Dr. Albert Osterrieth's meeting with the artist
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