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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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Auguste Rodin
1840 - 1917
LE BAISER, RÉDUCTION NO. 3
inscribed Rodin and with the foundry mark F. Barbedienne. Fondeur.
bronze
height: 39.4cm., 15 1/2 in.
Conceived in 1886 and cast in bronze by the Barbedienne Foundry, Paris in an edition of 105 between 1898 and 1919.
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This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue critique de l'œuvre sculpté d'Auguste Rodin being prepared by the Comité Rodin with the collaboration of Galerie Brame & Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay, under the archive number 2001-773B.

Provenance

Victor Grossi, Chile
Private Collection, Chile (acquired from the family of the above in 1995; sale: Sotheby's, London, 6th February 2001, lot 106)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Literature

Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, no. 148, illustration of the marble version p. 59
Albert E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1962, illustration of the larger cast p. 63
Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, nos. 54 & 55, illustration of the marble version n.p.
Robert Descharnes & Jean-François Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Paris, 1967, illustration of the marble version p. 131
John L. Tannock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, illustration of the marble version p. 77
Rodin sculpteur, Œuvres méconnues (exhibition catalogue), Paris, 1992-93, no. 131, illustration of another cast p. 155
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, Le Baiser de Rodin, Paris, 1995, no. 42, illustration of another cast n.p.
John L. Tancock, Rodin en México: Colección de escultura europea de los siglos XIX y XX, Mexico, 1997, no. 47, illustration of another cast n.p.
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, no. S.2061, illustration of another cast p. 161; the present cast listed p. 161
Robert Bowman, Rodin in Private Hands, London, 2014, n.n., illustration of another cast p. 67

Catalogue Note

One of the most celebrated sculptures in Western art, Auguste Rodin’s Le Baiser réduction, no. 3 shows the ill-fated lovers from the fifth canto of Dante’s Inferno - Paolo and Francesca - who were banished for their adulterous passion and doomed to spend eternity in an embrace. The viewer becomes immersed in the spiralling rhythms of the entwined bodies and the sensuous finish of smooth limbs against pitted rock. Among all the love stories in Dante’s Divine Comedy, this forbidden liaison, so reminiscent of courtly love, had the greatest resonance for a late nineteenth century audience and was reinterpreted by many artists including Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Eugène Delacroix and Alexandre Cabanel. Depicting the lovers in the throes of a passionate kiss, Le Baiser is unlike the more austere, contemporaneous variations of the subject, enhanced by the subtle tenderness of the couple’s position.

Rodin had intended to include this work in his monumental Gates of Hell, the high-relief sculptural doors that would be covered with figures from Dante’s Divine Comedy but he decided to remove the pair of lovers as he felt that it lacked the tragic mood the project required. Instead, he chose to exhibit the sculpture separately at the Galeries Georges Petit and the Exposition Générale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, which ensured its success as one of Rodin’s signature works. The French government commissioned a marble version in 1888 and after the work was exhibited at the Paris Salon that same year to glowing reviews, the Barbedienne foundry cast bronze editions in four different sizes between 1898 and 1918, the largest being 71.4cm.

One of the most recognisable sculptures in the history of art, the work’s pertinence to Rodin’s contemporaries was immediate and its continued relevance in today’s visual culture has solidified the sculpture’s legacy. Le Baiser transcends preceding imagery, elevating the work to masterpiece status. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote so eloquently of the work in 1903: ‘The spell of the great group of the girl and the man that is named ‘The Kiss’ lies in this understanding distribution of life. In this group waves flow through the bodies, a shuddering ripple, a thrill of strength, and a presaging of beauty. This is the reason why one beholds everywhere on these bodies the ecstasy of this kiss. It is like a sun that rises and floods all with its light’ (Rainer Maria Rilke, Rodin, London, 1946, p. 26).

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