The flagrantly explicit composition and central focus on the female anatomy recalls Gustave Courbet's infamous painting L'Origine du monde. Though the painting was still in private hands in the late nineteenth century, a few well-connected intellectuals knew the work. Edmond de Goncourt, a friend of Rodin's, is known to have seen it in the summer of 1889, and could well have introduced the artist to it himself. Rodin drew voluminous quantities of nudes in unconventional poses, often highly erotic ones, and it is perhaps these studies that prompted the exceptional arrangement of the Iris. The original pose must have been made lying down, but Rodin's radical reorientation elevates the subject and its impact on the viewer. It is quite possible that Rodin was also influenced by the new and unconventional forms of dance that were all the rage in the Cabaret's of Montmartre. The famous Moulin Rouge opened on October 5th 1889 and Rodin no doubt had access to these new and highly sexualised spectacles which would eventually develop into the French Can Can. Rodin's archives contains articles published in the Gil Blas featuring notorious contemporary dancers such as Grille d'Egout. The similarities between Iris and the pose of infamous dancers such a Lili jambes-en-l'air is striking.
Iris, to this day stand outs as an exceedingly modern sculpture that could easily find its place among the most contemporary bronzes produced today.
Fig. 1 Autre fonte d'Iris, Messagère des dieux devant La Porte de l'Enfer, 1891, photographie Druet
Lili jambes-en-l'air, photographe anonyme.
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