Lot 12
  • 12

Auguste Rodin

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
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  • Auguste Rodin
  • Le Baiser, modèle avec base simplifiée
  • inscribed A. Rodin, with the foundry mark Alexis. Rudier Fondeur. Paris; inscribed with the raised signature A. Rodin on the underside
  • bronze
  • height: 85.8cm.
  • 33 3/4 in.


Musée Rodin, Paris

M. Goertz, Germany (acquired from the above in July 1943)

Private Collection, Hamburg (acquired by 1959)

Thence by descent to the present owners


Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin, London, 1917, illustration of another cast pl. 6

Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, nos. 91-92, illustration of the marble version no. 91

Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, no. 71, illustration of the larger marble version

Georges Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1947, illustration of the marble version pl. 71

Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, sa vie, son œuvre, son héritage, Paris, 1962, illustration of the marble version p. 49

Bernard Champigneuelle, Rodin, London, 1967, nos. 78-79, illustration of the marble version pp. 162-163

Robert Descharnes & Jean-François Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, illustration of the larger marble version p. 131

Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, illustration of the marble version pls. 54-55

Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970, no. 49, illustration of the marble version p. 121

John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, illustration of the marble version p. 77

Albert Elsen, In Rodin's Studio, A Photographic Record of Sculpture in the Making, Ithaca, 1980, illustration of the marble on the cover

Hélène Pinet, Rodin, sculpteur et les photographes de son temps, Paris, 1985, no. 34, illustration of the marble p. 46

Nicole Barbier, Marbres de Rodin: Collection de Musée Rodin, Paris, 1987, no. 79, illustration of the marble version p. 185

Pierre Kjellberg, Les bronzes du XIXe siècle, Paris, 1987, illustration of another cast p. 585

David Finn & Marie Busco, Rodin and his Contemporaries: The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collection, New York, 1991, illustrations of another cast pp. 60-61

Albert Elsen, Rodin's Art, The Rodin Collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Centre for the Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, no. 49, illustrations of another cast pp. 214-215

Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, no. S.472, illustrations of another cast pp. 158-159


Rich, mid-brown, modulated patina. There is mild wear to the untouched and original patina. For example to the top of the head, his proper right thigh and forearm, and her left hip. There is minor dirt and verdigris in the crevices. The overall condition of the bronze is very good.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Rodin’s Le Baiser has become one of the most recognisable sculptures in the history of art. The work’s pertinence to Rodin's contemporaries was immediate and its continued relevance in today's visual culture has solidified the sculpture's legacy. Though he firmly grounded Le Baiser in the schema of his planned Le Porte de l’Enfer which was based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, Rodin’s sculpture transcended preceding imagery to create a true masterpiece that continues to transfix contemporary society.  

Rodin began working on the gates in 1880 following a commission from the French government for a monumental bronze portal that would serve as a centrepiece for the planned national museum of decorative arts. The project sparked a period of intense creativity that occupied Rodin for over twenty years and saw the creation of some of his most important and celebrated individual works. A journalist visiting his studio in 1889 described the scene: ‘I remember a time when the walls, the floor of the studio, the turntables and the furniture were littered with small female nudes in the contorted poses of passion and despair... With the rapidity of spontaneous creation, a countless host of damned women came into being and writhed in his fingers. Some of them lived for a few hours before being returned to the mass of reworked clay’ (quoted in Rodin. Sculptures and Drawing (exhibition catalogue), Hayward Gallery, London, 1986-87, p. 80).

Le Baiser
 portrays the ill-fated lovers from Dante's Divine Comedy, Paolo and Francesca, who were murdered by Francesca's husband and Paolo's brother, Gianciotto Malatesta, lord of Rimini, who caught them as they shared their first kiss. Banished to the second circle of hell for their adulterous passion, the two lovers were doomed to spend eternity in an embrace. Among the love stories in Dante's Divine Comedy, this forbidden liaison, so reminiscent of courtly love, had the greatest resonance for a late nineteenth century audience, and was reinterpreted by many artists including Ingres, Delacroix and Alexandre Cabanel.

Le Baiser was originally intended for the left side of La Porte de l'Enfer, but was never included as Rodin felt the work - being an embodiment of absolute happiness - lacked the tragic mood the project required. Instead he chose to exhibit the sculpture separately at the Galerie Georges Petit and the Exposition Générale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and it quickly became one of Rodin's signature works. The French government commissioned a marble version in 1888, and after the work was exhibited at the Paris Salon that same year to glowing reviews, the Barbedienne foundry cast bronze editions in four different sizes between 1898 and 1918, the largest being 71.4cm.

This cast was produced from one of the two plasters in its original size (86cm.) and made by the Alexis Rudier foundry in the years proceeding the artist’s death. According to Jerome Le Blay 26 casts of this size were produced between 1887-1972. Initially they were cast by a few independent foundries such as Griffoul et Lorge, but mainly by Alexis Rudier and later by his son Georges Rudier. Le Blay has suggested that the present bronze was produced roughly half-way through the sequence, and that the present cast was probably the fifteenth cast to be made. The records of the Musée Rodin indicate that this cast was purchased by M. Goertz from the museum in 1943, and was subsequently acquired by a private collector in Hamburg and where it has remained with his family until the present day. It is possible that the original purchaser was Max F. Goertz, the private secretary and companion of the great art collector and taste-maker Harry, Graf von Kessler. Kessler was a friend and patron of many artists, including Rodin and Maillol as well as the German Expressionists. Max Goertz lived in France for much of his life and was a director of the Cranach Press.