- Inscribed with the signature Rodin
Private Collection (by descent from the above)
N. Murphy, Canada (acquired from the above)
Private Collection, United Kingdom (acquired circa 1975)
Sale: Koller Auktionen, Zurich, May 20-21, 1977
Private Collection, Geneva (purchased at the above sale)
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above in 1981)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011
Frederick Lawton, The Life and Works of Auguste Rodin, London, 1906, illustrated opposite p. 111
Georges Danthon, Oeuvres de Rodin, Catalogue, Musée Rodin, 1929, no. 88, illustration of another version p. 50
Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, p. 141, no. 56, illustration of another version p. 56
René Descharnes & Jean-François Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, illustration of another version p. 134
Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, illustrations of another version pls. 56-57
John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, illustration of another version figs. 32, 32a-b, 33 & 34
Albert E. Elsen, In Rodin's Studio, A Photographic Record of Sculpture in the Making, Ithaca, 1980, no. 48, illustration of the clay model p. 171
Albert E. Elsen, Rodin Rediscovered, Washington, D.C., 1981, illustration of another version pl. 48
David Finn & Marie Busco, Rodin and His Contemporaries: The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection, New York, 1991, illustration of another version p. 227
Albert E. Elsen, Rodin's Art, The Rodin Collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, pp. 494-497, no. 148, another version illustrated p. 495
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin. Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, pp. 331-337, illustrated p. 336, fig. 6 (photo by Jacques Ernest Bulloz, carbon print, Ph. 975)
Éternel Printemps was one of Rodin's most celebrated sculptures of the 1880s. The theme of embracing lovers preoccupied Rodin and calls to mind the story of Paolo and Francesca, Dante's mythical paramours who were condemned to spend eternity locked in a maelstrom of passion. For the figure of the woman Rodin used the highly sensual Torse d'Adèle, 1882, which was named after the model who posed for the sculptor. This form was first used to the left of the tympanum of the Gates of Hell and again later in La Chute d'un Ange, but it gained its greatest fame when it was united with the figure of the youthful male in the present work. When Rodin received a commission for the first of the marble versions in 1896, it became apparent that the outstretched left arm and right leg of the male figure, extending freely into space in the first state, would have to be modified. Consequently the base was enlarged to provide support for the leg and arm. The present marble is the second variation of the original conception of this figure.
Animated by the dazzling play of light on the surface and the sweeping upward movement of the man, the figures seem ready to take flight. As Ionel Jianou and Cécile Goldscheider have noted: "Rodin is an artist who can see and dares to express in all sincerity what he has seen. He discovers the enchantment of light and its resources, the vibration and intimate movement of surfaces and planes, the throb of passion that animates form. He uses 'highlights, heavy shadows, paleness, quivering, vaporous half-tones, and transitions so finely shaded that they seem to dissolve into air', giving his sculpture 'the radiance of living flesh'" (I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, op. cit., p. 19).
From dealing with love in an allegorical way, Rodin began treating it in more human terms. As evident in the present work, there is a marked increase in the eroticism of his art and a corresponding growth in the daring movement of the poses which could be a reflection of the artist's studio practice allowing the models to move freely and independently. Rodin himself proclaimed: "Sculpture does not need to be original, what it needs is life. [...] I used to think that movement was the chief thing in sculpture and in all I did it was what I tried to attain. [...] Grief, joy, thoughts – in our art all becomes action" (quoted in I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, ibid., pp. 19-20).
The first owner of this marble was the German diplomat Hellmuth Lucius von Stoedten (1869-1934), who commissioned this sculpture from the artist's studio. Baron von Stoedten was a friend of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, whose appreciation of Rodin manifested in his series of essays entitled Rodin et son oeuvre (1903). Baron von Stoedten was posted in Paris at the turn of the century, when his taste for art lead to the acquisition of this fine marble. Work on the marble commenced in 1901, with Rodin and his associates Raynaud and Barthélemy modifying the composition from November 1901 until September 1902. On July 25, 1903, Baron von Lucius wrote to Rodin, inquiring whether "the magnificent Printemps" was ready, and Rodin confirmed its completion that August. The work would be installed on a neo-gothic credenza in the Baron's apartment later that year. The marble remained with the Baron for the rest of his life, and was then inherited by his daughter upon his death in 1934.