Lot 4
  • 4

AUGUSTE RODIN | Penseur, petit modèle

800,000 - 1,200,000 EUR
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  • Auguste Rodin
  • Penseur, petit modèle
  • signed A Rodin and inscribed ALEXIS RUDIER FONDEUR PARIS; stamped A. Rodin (in the interior)
  • bronze
  • height: 37,8 cm; 14 3/4 in.
  • Conceived circa 1880-81. This reduction was conceived in 1903 and the present example was cast circa 1920.


Musée Rodin
Louis Tiberghien, Tourcoing (1877-1941)
Thence by descent au propriétaire actuel


George Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1929, nos. 167-169, illustrations of another cast pp. 73-74
George 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
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. 111-120
Albert E. Elsen (ed.), Rodin Rediscovered, Washington, D.C., 1981, illustration of the clay 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, edition catalogued p. 587


Please contact the Impressionist and Modern Art Department for the condition report for this lot.
"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

In 1880, Auguste Rodin gave form to "man as symbol of humanity, the tough and hard-working man who stops in the middle of his tasks to think of things, to exert a faculty that distinguishes him from the brute" (Rodin, Every country has his beautiful women, says Rodin, unreferenced press cutting, Musée Rodin Archives).

This radical new work sprung from chaos, from the clay, from the fire of the Gates of Hell that were conceived as a monumental gate for the future museum of decorative arts for which Rodin was commissioned. He was forty years old at the time. If he was still using paper collars and sleeves for his outfits upon which he anxiously and vigorously scribbled his ideas, his notoriety was growing. Falguière and Carrier-Belleuse in particular had no difficulty in convincing Edmond Turquin, state undersecretary at the museum of decorative arts, to call upon the sculptor. The artist had the satisfaction of beginning this work at the marble depository at 182 rue de l’Université (an address which would always figure on his writing paper thereafter) and to establish his studio there.

The choice of the subject seems to have befallen the sculptor. Dante was in fashion at the time. Paolo and Francesca were the embodiment of beauty and of the torment of passionate love. Liszt and Tchaikovsky poured musical notes over the Styx. Blake, Flaxman and Füssli seized hold of Ugolin. Heroes from Rodin’s youth. Carpeaux produced his own version in 1862, it was sublime.

Thus, Rodin thus delved into the reading of The Divine Comedy. From 1880 to 1881, for fifteen months, the torment of creation competed with the joy of artistic freedom. Over two hundred sculptures emerged from this process. The fetters of the initial subject were abolished. The Gates of Hell became an immeasurable source of new forms and figures: a reservoir in which figures and groups such as the Thinker, Adam and Eve, Ugolin, Three Shades or Fugit Amor acquired a new experimental autonomy as works of art in and of themselves.

The first reduction of The Thinker dates from 1903 (in its initial version, it measured 71,5 cm.).  The result was greatly appreciated by the sculptor who entrusted the production to Henri Lebossé. Most of the casts were signed by the  Alexis Rudier foundry. The present nuanced brown and burnished version, a cast that immediately entered the collection of the grandparents of the current owner, can be dated to 1920 at the very latest.

The Thinker is exemplary of Rodin’s exceptional creative process. A method by which the artist succeeds in extracting an icon urbi et orbi from the subject stricto sensu. Few precedents are available in the history art in general, in the history of sculpture in particular: apart for, perhaps in a precocious manner, Barberini’s figure of a faun abandoned to its nudity and its peaceful lust or Michelangelo’s Dying slave.  Beyond the similar method and style (The Thinker’s pose immediately evokes that of the central figure of the tomb of Lorenzo de Medici), the slave separates himself from his condition at the instant and in the movement of his death.

In Rodin’s studio, in 1880, The Thinker was still called "Dante".  Placed in the middle of the gate’s tympanum, the poet overlooked the cycles of his work and the circles of hell. But he was never draped in purple. Entirely naked, he rapidly became, in Rodin’s thought and conception, a man in his elemental state deprived of all historical, mythological and narrative trappings. In 1888, The Thinker was exhibited independently. In Paris the following year, it was no longer called "Dante" but "The Thinker: the Poet". Seated on a rock, the bone of his hand pressing into his mouth, he plunges his elbow into the muscles of the opposite leg in an unprecedented, almost supernatural position. It is thus that Rodin endows his Thinker with the qualities of a creator. It is as if his extreme concentration absorbs all of his surroundings. In 1881, Rodin placed the sculpture on a high shelf. From there, it contemplated the world the artist was in the midst of creating.

Whilst remaining part of the monumental Gates of Hell, The Thinker was exhibited on its own in 1888 and thus became a fully autonomous work. Enlarged in 1904, it acquired a monumental dimension which increased its popularity: this image of a man immersed in thought, yet whose powerful body suggests a great capacity for action, quickly became one of the world’s most famous sculptures.

This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Critique de l'oeuvre sculpté d'Auguste Rodin being currently prepared by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay under the archive number 2018-5726B.