Private Collection, Prague (acquired in the 1930s)
Private Collection, Czech Republic
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Rodin's Sculpture. A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, Rutland & Tokyo, 1977, no. 44, another cast illustrated p. 223
Auguste Rodin. Le Monument des Bourgeois de Calais (1884-1895) dans les collections du Musée Rodin et du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Calais (exhibition catalogue), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais & Musée Rodin, Paris, 1977-78, no. 87, another cast illustrated p. 223
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. XXXVIII, no. 4, Spring 1981, fig. 55, another cast illustrated p. 44
Antoinette LeNormand-Romain & Annette Haudiquet, Rodin: The Burghers of Calais, Paris, 2001, no. 53, the larger version illustrated p. 47
Antoinette LeNormand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, another cast illustrated p. 237
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain in Rodin: The Burghers of Calais, Paris, 2001, p. 52
In 1884 Rodin was approached by the mayor of Calais to create a monument to the celebrated burghers of the city, who in 1347 had offered themselves to the King of England, Edward III, in return for the lifting of a year-long siege of the town. Edward agreed on condition that the burghers presented themselves wearing nooses, sackcloth and carrying the keys to the city. The lives of the burghers were spared, but in the moment depicted by Rodin they are shown in expectation of their deaths. Pierre de Wiessant was the fourth burgher to offer his life, immediately after his brother Jacques de Wiessant. Their heroic act and that of the four burghers who accompanied them is commemorated in Rodin's monumental sculpture Les Bourgeois de Calais, now widely recognised as one of the greatest achievements in modern sculpture.
Following the official commission in 1885, Rodin worked tirelessly on developing the characters of the individual figures and, rather than idealising the men, he sought to explore the physical and psychological tension occasioned by this historic event. He originally executed the figures on a monumental, larger-than-life scale, and the reduced versions followed several years later. The individual burghers were modelled in the nude before being clothed, a practice that allowed Rodin to explore the physical effect of tension on their musculature. Antoinette LeNormand-Romain writes that 'Pierre de Wiessant offers the image of suffering in the extreme. His body, bent, like a taut bow, vibrates with pain, his hands, opening like flowers, sing out' (A. LeNormand-Romain, op. cit., 2001, p. 52).
The present work, cast in July 1902, is a rare lifetime bronze of the final, clothed version of Pierre de Wiessant. According to Jérôme Le Blay, this cast is one of the very first realised by the Alexis Rudier foundry, who only started working with Rodin several months earlier, in April 1902, and is the earliest known cast of Pierre de Wiessant, vêtu in this reduced size. It was given by Rodin to The Mánes Association of Fine Artists, founded in Prague in 1887 by a group of avant-garde artists and architects, including Frantisek Kupka, Emil Filla and Otto Gutfreund. They first contacted Rodin in 1900, expressing admiration for this work, and that same year two representatives of the Mánes Association travelled to Paris to meet with Rodin and present the idea of exhibiting his art in Prague. The exhibition, held at the Mánes Pavilion in Prague in the summer 1902 included a large number of sculptures and drawings by the artist, and is now considered his most important show of the time outside of France. It was in 1902, following the success of Rodin’s exhibitions in Vienna, Berlin, Dresden and, most recently Prague, that the German poet and great admirer of Rodin’s sculpture, Rainer Maria Rilke – who was born in Prague - was commissioned to write a monograph on the artist, published the following year. After his return from Prague, where a number of events were organised in his honour, Rodin sent this cast of Pierre de Wiessant, vêtu to the Mánes Association as a sign of gratitude. The work still bears the label with the customs stamp dated '29/8 1902'.
A number of other casts of Pierre de Wiessant, vêtu in this reduced size are in major museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, Musée Rodin in Paris, Saarland Museum in Saarbrücken and Nasjonalgalleriet in Olso.
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