This lifetime cast by Rodin was titled “Mignon” a name that at the time would have been immediately associated with one of the main characters in Goethe’s novel “Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship”. Mignon was also the title of an opera by Ambroise Thomas based on Goethe’s novel. Rodin would have had access to both sources. The bust is also considered as one of the first portraits of Rose Beuret, first the companion and then spouse of the artist. The young couple had met initially in 1864, six years before this bust was conceived. Rodin chooses an expressive composition, using hollowed irises to create an expression of intense romantic beauty.
As the certificate of authenticity states, this lifetime cast was most probably executed for Rodin in 1912. We know of only five lifetime casts of this subject by Rudier and it is thought that they were intended has gifts to members of Rose Beuret’s family. This cast is quite unique as it shows additions of wax in areas of Mignon’s hair, towards the top and reaching around the back. These wax additions were clearly not intended to mask casting faults as there are none but rather could be some sort of creative sculptural modification. Where these added by the great sculptor? It is well known that Rodin used and combined composite materials. One could also question why anyone else would have added these waxed volutes of hair to this bust. The wax in question is casting wax with shades ranging from black to brown. A forensic analysis of the finger prints visible in the wax, compared to known fingers prints of Rodin, if they exist and it this were at all possible, could perhaps provide some answers.
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