The present work is one of many tributes Rodin would make to classical mythology. Derived from the Roman poet Ovid’s best-known work—the Metamorphoses. Rather than replicate any particular legend, the sculpture represents more generally many of the lovers captured in Ovid’s masterpiece, and is closely related to other sculptures such as Daphnis and Lycenion (1885) and Cupid and Psyche (1886), also from the Metamorphoses.
During this period in Rodin’s practice, there is a marked increase in the eroticism of his art and a corresponding growth in the daring movement of the poses, as he began treating love in human terms rather than allegorically. Striking in the spontaneous beauty of its closed form, its intensely lyrical eroticism and the magic of a fugitive gesture, the momentary touching of the two thumbs takes on great emotionality and sensuality. A reflection of the artist's studio practice, where he allowed the models to move freely and independently, Rodin himself proclaimed, "sculpture does not need to be original, what it needs is life... I used to think that movement was the chief thing in sculpture and in all I did it was what I tried to attain... Grief, joy, thoughts—in our art all becomes action" (quoted in Ionel Jianou & Cècile Goldscheider, op. cit., pp. 19-20).
This example is one of four known lifetime casts by the artist.
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