- Auguste Rodin
- Le Baiser, 4ème réduction ou petit modèle
- inscribed A. Rodin and stamped with the foundry mark Alexis Rudier Fondeur, Paris; stamped A. Rodin on the underside
M. de Failly, Paris (acquired from the above in March 1944)
Louis Fortmeyer, USA (acquired circa 1950)
Private Collection, California (by descent from the above)
Sale: Bonhams & Butterfield, Los Angeles, 19th November, 2007, lot 1031
Bowman Gallery, London (purchased at the above sale)
Acquired by the present owners in 2007
Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, illustration of the marble version, pls. 54-55
Albert E. Elsen, Rodin, London, 1974, illustration of a larger cast, p. 63
Nicole Barbier, Marbres de Rodin: Collection de Musée Rodin, Paris, 1987, no. 79, illustration of the marble version, p. 185
Kirk Varnedoe, Rodin, A Magnificent Obsession, London, 2004, illustration of a larger cast, p. 105
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, no. S. 393, illustration of another cast, p. 162 (with incorrect measurements)
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.
Full many a time our eyes together drew
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o’ercame us.
When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne’er from me shall be divided,
Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
Galleotto was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein.
(Dante, The Inferno, trans. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Boston, 1913, V: 127-38, p. 19)
Auguste Rodin was unrivalled amongst nineteenth-century sculptors at communicating the drama of passion and romance. Created in 1886, Le Baiser is one of Rodin’s best-known and most highly regarded sculptures. It depicts the tale of forbidden courtly love in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno. Paolo and Francesca, the two ill-fated lovers, are condemned to the second circle of hell where an unrelenting wind torments those who are overcome with lust. During an absence from his kingdom, Francesca’s husband, Giovanni Malatesta, had placed her in the care of his brother, Paolo. While reading the story of adulterous love between Guinevere and Lancelot, they realised their own feelings for each and shared a passionate kiss. The pair was murdered by Giovanni when he returned unexpectedly from his trip and learned of their infidelity. Banished for their adulterous passion, the two lovers were doomed to spend eternity in an embrace. This tale, so reminiscent of courtly love, held great resonance for a late nineteenth century audience and appears in seminal works by many artist such as Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, Gustave Doré and Alexandre Cabanel.
Imbued with an extraordinary sensuality and tenderness, Le Baiser depicts the pair in the throes of a passionate kiss, unlike more austere variations of this subject being made in the same era. The concept of Le Baiser first appeared in a maquette for The Gates of Hell, but Rodin considered it too blissful to be among the tragic scenes the project required. He instead developed the lovers as an independent project, and the sculpture quickly became one of his signature works and one of the most iconic images in the history of art. This model was conceived in 1886 and cast in bronze by the Leblanc-Barbedienne Foundry until 1918 in an edition of between 93 and 103 and by the Alexis Rudier Foundry between 1920 and 1946 in an edition of 21; this version was cast in November 1942.