Lot 47
  • 47

Auguste Rodin

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Auguste Rodin
  • Ugolin et ses enfants
  • Inscribed Rodin and with the foundry mark E. Gonon Fondeur
  • Bronze
  • Length: 22 in.
  • 56 cm


Henry Lerolle, Paris (acquired from the artist in 1887)

Jacques Lerolle, Paris (by descent from the above)

Guillaume Lerolle (by descent from the above, circa 1925)

Sale: M. Pognon, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 10, 1944, lot 34

Lerolle Family (acquired at the above sale)

Sale: Millon & Associés, Hôtel Druout, March 19, 2004, lot 54

Acquired at the above sale


Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, IVe Salon des XX, 1887, no. 689


Alain Beausire, Quand Rodin exposait, 1988, Paris, p. 96

Antoinette le Normand-Romain, ed., The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of works in the Musée Rodin, vol. II, Paris, 2007, this cast listed p. 698, illustration of another cast p. 698


Excellent condition. Dark brown patina that is slightly rubbed at the highpoint, which enhance the depth and tonality of the composition. There is some minimal surface dirt in the interstices. No scratches or abrasions are apparent, and the bronze is structurally sound.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This early cast of a rare model from Rodin's oeuvre is a towering accomplishment of pathos in sculptural form. Originally intended for the Gates of Hell, the model depicts one of the most memorable characters from Dante's Inferno - Ugolino. The real-life Count Ugolino of Gheradesca was imprisoned for treason during the 13th century  war between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. He was sentenced to death and locked in a tower with two sons and two grandsons. Dante's personification of this tragic hero is a dark climax of the Inferno, shortly after which the protagonist ascends to Purgatorio. Rodin here depicts the impassioned story of Count Ugolino and his children at its most sympathetic and vivid moment.

The subject has been a significant one for artists and poets since the Gothic age, appearing in works by authors from Chaucer to Percy Shelle and Seamus Heaney. Rodin's take on the subject is indebted to the crowning achievement of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux's career as a sculptor. Carpeaux's bronze Ugolin et ses enfants from 1857-62 won a first-class medal at the 1863 Salon and a cast was thereafter displayed in the Tuileries close to the Laocoön. Rodin's iteration, however, displays a Modernist spirit that contrasts with the heavy Romanticism of Carpeaux's sculpture. Rodin attenuates his figures and creates an expressionist sculpture that conveys the intensity of his subject.

The present cast was commissioned by the artist and patron Henry Lerolle. After studying at the Académie Suisse, Lerolle lived and worked in Paris, submitting works to the Salon by 1868. His works now appear in the collections of Musée d'Orsay, Paris and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Lerolle became a close friend and patron of the artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas, appearing in several portraits by Renoir. Degas took an 1895 photograph of himself with Lerolle's daughters in which appears the present cast of Ugolin et ses enfants. The cast remained in the Lerolle family through much of the 20th century.

In her catalogue of the artist's works, Antoinette le Normand-Romain refers to the superior quality of the Lerolle bronze, cast by Eugene Gonon at his Paris foundry: "Curiously, although it was an earlier cast, it seems more 'accomplished': the hands of Ugolino's children, for example, are more precise, more detailed... The thick lock of hair falling on Ugolino's forehead should also be noted: it was still present in the plaster S. 460, which corresponds to the fragment from The Gates, but has been eliminated in the other plasters and bronzes" (op. cit., p. 701). The model was instantly prized by connoisseurs of modern sculpture and Rodin was commissioned to create a monumental version of the subject. A cast of this monumental version now holds a coveted position at the Musée Rodin in Paris, appearing in the center of a reflecting pool. Only nine casts were produced of the model in the present scale, three of which were lifetime. The Lerolle cast was the first of these to be produced.