Lot 2
  • 2

Auguste Rodin

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Auguste Rodin
  • Penseur, Petit modèle
  • Inscribed A. Rodin and with the foundry mark ALEXIS RUDIER FONDEUR. PARIS.; stamped with the raised signature A. Rodin (on the interior)
  • Bronze
  • Height: 14 7/8 in.
  • 37.8 cm


Mr. & Mrs. Ralph King, Cleveland (likely acquired from the Musée Rodin, Paris between 1916-19)

Thence by descent 


Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1929, nos. 167-169, illustrations of another cast pp. 73-74

Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, illustration of the plaster p. 40

Henri Martinie, Auguste Rodin, Paris, 1949, no. 19, illustration of another cast n.p. 

Albert E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, illustrations of other casts pp. 25, 52 & 53

Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, edition catalogued p. 88; illustration of another cast pl. 11

John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, edition catalogued and illustrations of other casts pp. 111-20

Albert E. Elsen, ed., Rodin Rediscovered, Washington, D.C., 1981, illustration of the clay model p. 67

Albert E. Elsen, The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin, Stanford, 1985, figs. 50 & 60, illustrations of the clay model pp. 56 & 71

Hélène Pinet, Rodin Sculpteur et les photographes de son temps, Paris, 1985, illustrations of other casts pp. 80-83

Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. II, illustration of other casts pp. 584-94

Catalogue Note

Auguste Rodin’s Le Penseur is one of the most recognizable sculptures in all of art history. Rodin first conceived of this image to crown the tympanum of his monumental La Porte de l'enfer (The Gates of Hell). The figure represented Dante, surrounded by the characters of his famed work The Divine Comedy, though it soon took on an independent life. “Thin and ascetic in his straight gown,’ Rodin wrote later, ‘my Dante would have been meaningless once divorced from the overall work. Guided by my initial inspiration, I conceived another ‘thinker’, a nude, crouching on a rock, his feet tense. Fists tucked under his chin, he muses. Fertile thoughts grow slowly in his mind. He is no longer a dreamer. He is a creator” (quoted in R. Masson & V. Mattiussi, Rodin, Paris, 2004, p. 38). Transcending Dante's narrative, Le Penseur became a universal symbol of reflection and creative genius.

From at least 1888, when the larger version of the sculpture was first exhibited in Copenhagen, Rodin considered Le Penseur to be an autonomous composition. The following year it was shown in Paris, with the original title Dante revised to read Le Penseur: le poète. The work's effect on viewers and critics was immediate and potent, allowing it to transcend the larger scheme of La Porte de l'enfer. Artists such as Edward Steichen and Edvard Munch worked through a hypnotic attachment to the model. Writer and critic Gabriel Mourey wrote of the work in 1906: "he is no longer the poet suspended over the pit of sin and expiation; he is our brother in suffering, curiosity, contemplation, joy, the bitter joy of searching and knowing. He is no longer a superhuman, a predestined human being; he is simply a man for all ages, for all latitudes" (G. Mourey, "Le Penseur de Rodin offert par souscription publique au peuple de Paris" in Les Arts de la vie, vol. 1, no. 5, May 1904, p. 268). 

Le Penseur, Petit modèle has distinguished provenance. This sculpture was acquired by Mr. & Mrs. Ralph T. King of Cleveland in the early twentieth century. A notable business man, Ralph King held the largest portion of downtown real estate in Cleveland at the turn of the century. He and his wife, Fanny Tewksbury King, were instrumental in the development of the Cleveland Museum of Art. They donated over eight-hundred works to the Museum, founded the Museum's Print Department and served on its Board of Trustees and Advisory Council. Two of their most notable donations to the Museum were works by Rodin - an example of L'Age d'airain and a monumental cast of Le Penseur, both acquired directly from the artist. In 1970, Le Penseur, which adorns the steps of the Museum, was damaged by a bomb, the evidence of which is visible in the lower portion of the figure which still adorns this grand staircase. The present work remained as a cherished part of their personal collection.