Eve, Petit Modèle
Signed ‘A. Rodin’
Inscribed with the foundry mark Alexis Rudier. Fondeur. Paris. and with raised interior repeat signature 'A. Rodin'
Bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 29 3/8” (74.6 cm)
Conceived in 1881; this version created in this size in 1883; this bronze cast in 1946.
Provenance & Comité Rodin Certificate available on request.
Eve is one of Rodin’s best-known and celebrated sculptures. Rodin began working on a life-size study in 1881, but was eventually forced to abandon work on the original model having struggled to capture the form of his female sitter. He reworked the figure every day until he realised that the model was in fact pregnant and so her pelvic shape was altering continuously throughout the process.
“Without knowing why, I saw my model changing. I modified my contours, naively following the successive transformations of ever-amplifying forms. One day, I learned she was pregnant; then I understood.”
Quoted in Le Normand-Romain, 2007. p. 345
After realising that the model was pregnant, the sculptor confided to his friend, Henri-Charles Dujardin-Beaumetz, that although unintentional, the model’s condition was fortuitous, and in fact “aided the character of the figure singularly”. Unfortunately, the model ultimately became too tired to pose for long periods of time, and eventually stopped returning to the studio, so Rodin abandoned his work and left the life-size version unfinished. The life-size version of Eve was not shown to the public until 1899, by which time Rodin felt confident enough to exhibit the work in its unfinished state.
Quoted in Ambrosini and Facos, 1987. p. 151
After abandoning the large Eve, Rodin completed a smaller version of the piece, which he modelled with both a round and square base. This version differed slightly from the life-size in the figure’s hair, the smooth finish of the surface, and the position of the hands and feet. The work was incredibly well received. The complementary juxtaposition between the sensual female form and the figure’s humble posture and modest gesture made this an extremely popular image. Emboldened by the public’s enthusiasm for the smaller model, he produced an edition of the work in bronze, initially using the foundries Francois Rudier, Griffoul et Lorge, Perzinka, and eventually Alexis Rudier. The present model is one of these bronzes cast by Rodin’s preferred foundry, Alexis Rudier.
Rodin initially conceived Eve in 1881, while working on The Gates of Hell which was a major commission for the artist from the French government for the doors of the planned Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1880. The figures of Adam and Eve were intended to flank the gates, doomed to watch over the hellish landscape as the dispossessed parents of original sin.
The Gates of Hell in The B. Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University with Adam and Eve (right-hand side)
Rodin’s Eve shown next to The Gates of Hell in The B. Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University
Unlike many contemporary interpretations of this theme, which present Eve either before the fall in enchanting innocence or as temptress, Rodin depicts Eve after she has eaten the fruit of knowledge, frozen in the moment of irreversible downfall. Aware of her own nudity for the first time, Eve shields her body, turning inward upon herself, face lowered and thighs locked in a gesture that simultaneously expresses the acceptance of her guilt and a rejection of the consequences to come.
‘[she] seems to be enfolded in her arms, with hands turned outwards as if to push away everything, even her own changing body,’ wrote Rainer Maria Rilke, who worked with Rodin from 1905 to 1906 and was for many years a neighbour in the subdivided Hotel Biron.
Quoted in Ambrosini and Facos, 1987. p. 151
Moved by Rodin’s ability to express the subject’s inner turmoil through the subtleties of posture and composition, Rilke wrote, “That Eve… stands with head sunk deeply into the shadow of the arms that draw together over the breast like those of a freezing woman. The back is rounded, the nape of the neck almost horizontal. She bends forward as though listening over her own body in which a new future begins to stir. And it is as though the gravity of this future weighed upon the senses of the woman and drew her down from the freedom of life into the deep, humble service of motherhood.”
Quoted in Rilke, 1946. p. 43
The depiction of Adam and Eve after the Fall, and portrayals of biblical sin in general, have been immensely popular subjects throughout Art History. The artistic inspiration for both the figures of Adam and Eve and for The Gates of Hell led Rodin back to the art of Lorenzo Ghiberti, Michelangelo and Masaccio. Rodin drew considerable inspiration from Renaissance Masters during his trip to Italy in 1876. The composition of Rodin’s Eve owes a debt to the cowering pose of Michelangelo’s Eve in the Sistine chapel, and the force of emotion and protective posture of Masaccio's Expulsion in the Brancacci Chapel.
Lorenzo Ghiberti, Gates of Paradise, gilded bronze doors, 1425–52, Baptistery of San Giovanni, Florence.
Michelangelo, The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden, 1509-10, fresco, Cappella Sistina, Vatican.
Masaccio, Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, c. 1424-27, fresco, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.
Inspired by Michelangelo, Rodin’s Eve is not the slender type of model befitting the corseted ladies of his time. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Rodin deviated from the idealised representation of the female form, in favour of a naturalistic depiction of female curves and musculature. Although this initially shocked critics, Rodin was, above all else known for capturing the essence of his sitters. Rather than sculpting what he saw before him or his preconceived idealisations, he understood the essence of his subjects and translated that into three-dimensional form.
One can assume, from Rodin’s description of his first encounter with the model for Eve, that the sculptor was once again inspired by a unique beauty beyond superficial traits.
“The dark one had sunburned skin, warm, with the bronze reflections of sunny lands; her movements were quick and feline, with the lissomeness and grace of a panther; all the strength and splendour of muscular beauty, and that perfect equilibrium, that simplicity of bearing which makes great gesture. At that time I was working on my statue ‘Eve’.”
Albert E. Elsen, Rosalyn Frankel Jamison, Bernard Barryte, and Frank Wing, Rodin's Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. pp.187-191.
Albert E. Elsen, The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin, Stanford, 1985, no. 64. pp. 74 -78 (illustrations of another cast)
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of the Works in the Musée Rodin, Vol. I, Paris Musée Rodin: 2007. pp. 338, 340-341, 345 & 348 (illustration of other cast)
Georges Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1929, no. 55. p. 41 (illustration of the marble version)
Ionel Jianou & Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967. pl.17 (illustration of the plaster)
John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, no. 8-5. p. 154 (illustration of another cast)
Judith Cladel, Auguste Rodin, sa vie glorieuse, sa vie inconnue, Paris, 1936.
Lynne, Ambrosini, Auguste Rodin, and Michelle Facos. Rodin: The Cantor Gift To The Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1987. p. 151
Rainer M. Rilke, Auguste Rodin: Getty publications, Lives of the Artists, Getty Publications, 2018. pp .43-44 (illustration of another cast)
Rainer M. Rilke, Rodin, Issue 45 of Studies in French Literature, Haskell House Pub Limited, 1946. p. 22
Raphäel Masson & Véronique Mattiusi, Rodin, Paris, 2004. p. 39 (illustration of another cast)