This work will be included in the forthcoming Auguste Rodin Catalogue Critique de l’oeuvre sculpté being currently prepared by the Comité Rodin under the archive no. 2006V840B.
Private Collection (acquired from the artist in December 1913 and thence by descent to the present owner)
Paris, Faculté de Médecine, Congrés International de l'Education Physique, Exposition de l'Education Physique et des Sports, 1913, no. 13
Munich, Königlich Glaspalast, XIe Exposition Internationale des Beaux-Arts, 1913 (titled De Profundis)
Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, 1930-2004 (on long-term loan)
Auguste Rodin, letter to the family of the present owner on May 10, 1913
Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, no. 220, illustration of plaster cast p. 82
Georges Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1947, no. 83, illustration of another cast p. 142
Albert E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, p. 57, illustration of another cast p. 56
Athena Tacha, "The Prodigal Son: Some Aspects of Rodin's Sculpture," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, Fall, 1964, vol. 22, discussed pp. 23-39, illustrations of other casts pp. 24, 26, and 31
Robert Descharnes and Jean-Francois Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, illustration of another cast p. 91
Ionel Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, no. 34, illustration of plaster cast
Athena Tacha Spear, "A Note on Rodin's Prodigal Son and on the Relationship of Rodin's Marbles and Bronzes," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, Fall, 1969, vol. 27, discussed pp. 24-36, illustration of another cast p. 24
Albert E. Elsen, Rodin, London, 1974, pp. 57-59, illustration of another cast
Jennifer Hawkins, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1975, no. 3, illustration of another cast p. 18
John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, discussed pp. 20,94,158,162, and 607, illustration of another cast p. 45
Jacques de Caso and Patricia B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Rutland, Vermont, 1977, discussed pp. 159-163, illustration of another cast p. 161
Alain Beausire, Quand Rodin exposait, Paris, 1988, fig. 173, illustrated p. 342
Anne-Birgitte Fonsmark, Rodin: La collection du Brasseur Carl Jacobsen à la Glyptothèque, Copenhagen, 1988, no. 16, pp. 103-105, illustration of limestone version p. 104
Yann Le Pichon and Carol-Mark Lavrillier, Rodin: La porte de l'enfer, Lausanne, 1988, discussed p. 184, illustration of limestone version pp. 183 and 185
Rainer Crone and Siegfried Salzmann, Rodin: Eros and Creativity, Munich, 1992, discussed and illustration of another cast p. 199
Mary L. Levkoff, Rodin in His Time: The Cantor Gifts to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1994, illustration of another cast p. 83
L'Enfant prodigue is one of the most iconic images from Rodin's unrealized grand project, La Porte de l'enfer. The sculpture was originally created in a smaller plaster version in 1885 and later enlarged in 1893 for a limestone version that is currently in the collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. In 1912, Rodin received a commission from the first owner of the present work to cast the larger figure in bronze. Rodin created a sand cast of the first bronze (the present work) at the Alexis Rudier foundry in 1913, and in his letter to the owner, the artist wrote, "The execution is perfect and the patina is very beautiful" (Letter from Rodin, May 10, 1913). This bronze is the first of six that the artist cast during his lifetime and is the only one of the lifetime casts in private hands.
Rodin incorporated this particular figure in other compositions, including Fugit Amor, but in L'Enfant prodigue the male figure is unaccompanied, allowing the viewer to note the resonant anguish of his pose. The subject is the Biblical parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32), which recounts the tale of the younger of two sons who squanders his father's wealth and returns to his father for forgiveness. This sculpture portrays the moment when the son, in despair and on his knees, throws stones to the heavens. In the original limestone, the stones in the figure's hands also served as structural supports for the fingers. Rodin intentionally rendered them again in the bronze version as a convenient narrative device.
Jérôme Le Blay has explained that the present work is one of three of the lifetime casts of L'Enfant prodigue that Rodin created with an open base. The part of the base that is cut away represents the smooth part of the limestone that Rodin’s chisel never touched. The artist created removable wooden supports to fill the voids in the bronze, and these supports accompany the present work. Like Brancusi, Rodin was interested in the textural contrast, and he would often pair his bronzes with wooden or stone bases. The gap in the base also allows the figure to appear less weighted-down and helps focus our attention on the upward thrust of the pose.
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