Balzac, étude type c (buste) 3ème version, grand modèle
Signed A. Rodin
Inscribed Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris
Bronze with a dark brown and black patina
Height 10 1/8" (26.2 cm)
Conceived in 1892. This example cast between 1918 and 1927.
The Comité Rodin states that at least 10 casts of this sculpture in this size were produced after Rodin's death. There are no lifetime casts.
‘Such, too, is the "Balzac" to whom Rodin has given a greatness which, perhaps, over towers the figure of the writer. Rodin has seized upon the essence of Balzac's being, has not confined himself to the limitations of his personality, but has gone beyond into his most extreme and distant possibilities.’ – (Rainer Maria Rilke, 1919, p.87)
The Monument to Balzac by Auguste Rodin was the most controversial sculpture of the 19th century. After the death of Honoré de Balzac in 1850, numerous attempts were made to raise funding for a public monument in the poet’s honour. It was only in 1883 when the Société des Gens de Lettres received a gift from the State and a designated site from the City of Paris that the commission of a sculpture could proceed. Henri Chapu was selected to complete the monument, but unfortunately died in 1891 before the work was finished. The sculptors on the advisory committee, Jean-Alexandre Falguière, Antonin Mercié and Paul Dubois all voted that the work should be executed by a practicien, from Chapu’s model, but were overruled by Émile Zola, the President of the Société at the time. Émile Zola encouraged Auguste Rodin to apply for the commission and after submitting a proposal in July of 1891, in a heavily disgruntled and disputed atmosphere, the project was awarded to Rodin.
Rodin took to the project with great enthusiasm and embarked on an intensive study of Balzac’s life, work and character. He travelled to Balzac’s hometown of Touraine and consulted with contemporaries of Balzac to obtain a sense of the great man. Rodin created numerous studies in plaster of his subject and the present model is a bronze cast of one such study, known as the 3rd Version of the Type C study, Large Model.
Honoré de Balzac, 1842.
After seven years of working on the model, and several attempts by the Société to cut his budget, Rodin exhibited his final plaster study at the Salon of 1898. In a century accustomed to scandals and public outcries the reception of the work was unparalleled in the strength of the polarity of opinion. Considered vulgar by the Société des Gens de Lettres Rodin was forced to withdraw the work from the Salon. The strength of opinion on the work was such that it divided France into pro- and anti-Rodin members. Artists such as Paul Cezanne and Claude Monet applauded Rodin for his work and signed a petition for the monument to be adopted. Yet in the end the commission was given instead to Jean-Alexandre Falguière, a member of the established old guard of Romantic sculptors.
Rodin’s model of Balzac returned to his studio in Meudon where it remained until 1930 when it was cast in bronze for the Koninklijk Museum in Antwerp. Then finally in 1939 the Société des Gens de Lettres relented and had the work cast and erected on the corner of the Boulevards Raspail and Montparnasse in Paris. In spite of the backlash, Rodin never lost confidence in his work and the ambition behind it. It remains one of the most iconic sculptural monuments ever made.
Edward Steichen, The Open Sky, 11 pm, 1908.
Museums that possess other studies of the bust of Balzac include the Musée Rodin in Paris, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin Volume I (Paris, 2007), pp. 165- 189, other cast of Model C illustr. p.168
John l. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin: The Collection of the Rodin Museum Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, 1989), pp. 425- 459.
Jaques de Caso and Patricia B. Sanders, Rodin’s Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection (San Francisco, 1977), pp. 231-236.
Rainer Maria Rilke, August Rodin; Translated by Jessie Lemont and Hans Trausil (Los Angeles: 1945)