Lot 39
  • 39

AUGUSTE RODIN | Baiser, 1ère réduction dite aussi "No. I"

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Auguste Rodin
  • Baiser, 1ère réduction dite aussi "No. I"
  • Inscribed Rodin and with the foundry mark F. Barbedienne. Fondeur; stamped with the letter K, numbered 19/I and inscribed 70856 (on the interior)
  • Bronze
  • Height: 28 in.
  • 71.3 cm
  • Conceived in 1886, this reduction conceived in 1898; this example cast in 1908.


Private Collection, Belgium (acquired by the 1970s)

Private Collection, Belgium (by descent from the above)

Acquired from the above


Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin, London, 1917, illustration of another cast pl. 6

Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1929, no. 114, illustration of the marble version p. 57

Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1944, no. 71, illustration of the larger marble version n.p.

Georges Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1947, illustration of the marble version pl. 71

Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1962, illustration of the marble version p. 49

Bernard Champigneuelle, Rodin, London, 1967, nos. 78-79, illustrations of the marble version pp. 162-63

Robert Descharnes & Jean-François Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, illustration of the larger marble version p. 131

Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 100, illustrations of the marble version pls. 54-55

Ludwig Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970, no. 49, illustration of the marble version p. 121

John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, illustration of the marble version p. 77

Albert E. Elsen, In Rodin's Studio: A Photographic Record of Sculpture in the Making, Oxford, 1980, illustration of the marble version pls. 108-09 & on the dust jacket

Hélène Pinet, Rodin, sculpteur et les photographes de son temps, Paris, 1985, no. 34, illustration of the marble version p. 46

Nicole Barbier, Marbres de Rodin: Collection de Musée Rodin, Paris, 1987, no. 79, illustration of the marble version p. 185

Pierre Kjellberg, Les Bronzes du XIXe siècle, Paris, 1987, illustration of another cast p. 585

David Finn & Marie Busco, Rodin and his Contemporaries: The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collection, New York, 1991, illustrations of another cast pp. 60-61

Albert E. Elsen, Rodin's Art, The Rodin Collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, no. 49, illustrations of another cast pp. 214-15

Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, vol. I, Paris, 2007, illustration of another cast p. 160

Catalogue Note

There are few sculptures in the history of art which are as iconic as Rodin’s Baiser or have continued to transfix subsequent generations in quite the same way. The 1ère reduction is the largest and most impressive of the four bronze editions cast by the Barbedienne foundry between 1898 and 1918. The present example, recently rediscovered in a Belgian private collection, is a particularly fine cast which retains both layers of its original lacquer patina, creating a dark, almost anthracite colored surface with subtle warm brown highlights. Although the numbers inscribed by the foundry in ink on the inside often fade, the present cast’s number is clearly legible enabling the Comité Rodin to trace its exact date of sale to November 23, 1908. Baiser was originally intended for La Porte de l'Enfer, a monumental bronze portal based on Dante’s Divine Comedy which was commissioned by the French government and would serve as a centerpiece for the planned national museum of decorative arts (see fig. 1). Rodin began working on the gates in 1880 and the project would occupy him for over twenty years. The present lovers are taken from the fifth canto in which Dante and Virgil encounter the carnal sinners—as multitudinous as starlings—who curse heaven with their “lamentations, moans / And blasphemies” as they are cast around by the perpetually warring winds. The French government commissioned a marble version of the sculpture in 1888, but the muted tones of the bronzes seem more fitting for this second circle of hell, described as “a part where no thing gleams." 

The scene in which Virgil learns the tragic story of Francesca and Paolo is perhaps the most memorable of the entire poem. The inward dynamics of the sculpture reference the centripetal forces of the punishing whirlwind and the introversion and self-absorption for which they are damned, and although the composition guides our eye to the locking of the couple's lips, the dramatic moment itself is obscured from several angles—a reminder that this was thought to be a moment of private passion (“Alone we were, and no / Suspicion near us”). The viewer must walk around to peer closer, putting them in the position of Paolo’s murderous brother, Gianciotto Malatesta. Just as Dante chooses Francesca as narrator, in Rodin’s interpretation she is also the more active party and it is her arm which locks the pair together.

But Dante’s account is as much about the power of art as it is about lust. At the end, Virgil is “heart-struck” by the poetic account and “through compassion fainting, seem’d not far from death, and like a corpse fell to the ground.” Contemporary viewers were similarly struck when Rodin exhibited his sculpture at the Galerie Georges Petit and at the Exposition Générale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. It quickly became one of his signature works and its relevance in today’s visual culture has been cemented by the masterpieces which it has since inspired, from eponymous works by Klimt and Brancusi to Magritte’s Lovers or Lichtenstein’s The Kiss (see figs. 2 & 3).

This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Critique de l'oeuvre sculpté d'Auguste Rodin being currently prepared by the Comité Rodin in collaboration with Galerie Brame & Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay under the archive number 2018-5918B.