Masque de l'Homme au Nez Cassé (Mask of A Man With A Broken Nose)
Signed A Rodin with repeat raised interior signature
Inscribed Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris
Bronze with a brown patina on onyx plinth.
Height: 10" (25.4 cm)
Conceived between 1863-1864, this example cast between 1919-1923.
The Comité Rodin states that since this model was produced in various versions, it is impossible to know for certain how many casts of each version were produced, including the present one.
What is commonly referred to as ugliness in Nature can in Art become a great beauty. […] In fact, in Art only that which has Character is beautiful. Character is the intense truth of any natural spectacle, be it beautiful or ugly […] - Auguste Rodin, L’Art: Entretiens Réunis par Paul Gsell (Paris, 1911), pp. 46,51.
Rodin considered this portrait to be his earliest major work and described it as his first exceptional piece of modelling. He began the portrait in 1863, intending to submit it to the Paris Salon as his debut sculpture. The following year The Man With The Broken Nose became The Mask Of The Man With The Broken Nose when the cold conditions in Rodin’s studio caused the back of the head to freeze and break off overnight. Rodin, embracing the element of chance, wanted to exhibit the portrait bust as it was, however he continued to return to work on it for over a year, before submitting it to the Salon. Much to his disappointment, the Salon rejected the work in 1864 and again in 1865, unable to accept, what they considered to be, a fragmentary model by an unknown sculptor.
Rodin however persisted and in 1874 he commissioned Léon Fourquet to carve a marble of the model. By this point he had extended the work down to the shoulders and replaced the back of the head, trying to present the work as being more classically themed. The sculpture was finally accepted for exhibition at the Salon and was Rodin’s first work to be shown there. Shortly after, Rodin had the original version cast in bronze, an example of which was finally exhibited at the Salon in 1878.
Auguste Rodin, Man With Broken Nose, Marble, 1874-5, Musée Rodin.
The model’s debt to classical antiquity is clear, particularly in the blank eyes and thick strands of hair that allude to the busts of ancient Greece and Rome. This effect would not have been lost on its contemporary audience and it is one which Rodin was encouraged to explore by his close circle, who recognised his genius but also understood the Salon’s criteria.
Rodin’s approach was revolutionary in that he combined the elements of classicism with an expressive naturalism, as the portrait was clearly modelled from life. The sculpture was based on the face of a local handyman, nicknamed Bibi, who modelled for Rodin in the Saint-Marcel district outside Paris. Rodin depicted Bibi without flattery, broken nose and all, beginning what would become an ongoing exploration of unconventional beauty.
Rodin continued to draw inspiration from The Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose, using a second version of the bust in The Gates of Hell, a commission he received for the doors of the proposed Musée des Arts Decorative, as well as other subsequent works. He was fascinated by the inevitable decline of human beings, with its different effects, some perceived as ugliness, others as character, but all imbuing personality. Another example of this is his sculpture of She Who Was Once the Helmet Makers Beautiful Wife where we see what conventionally some perceived as ugliness, to be a beauty that gave the subject interest, far greater than conventional prettiness.
Auguste Rodin, She Who Was Once the Helmet Makers Beautiful Wife, Bronze, 1887
This cast of Mask of Man With the Broken Nose possesses a special raised repeat interior signature, which was designed by the Rudier Foundry, furthermore it also has a very rare “M” stamp above the signature of Rodin. This stamp is only present in very early casts of the work and signify that it was cast for the Musée Rodin.
The Comité Rodin states that since this model was produced in various versions, it is impossible to know for certain how many casts of each version were produced, including the present one. Examples of The Mask of A Man with A Broken Nose can be found in many museums around the world, most notably in the Musée Rodin in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Harvard Museum at Harvard University. In Europe the Neue Glyptothek in Munich and the Kunsthalle Bremen both possess casts as well.
Auguste Rodin, Mask Of A Man With A Broken Nose, Bronze, cast 1925, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Auguste Rodin, L’Art: Entretiens Réunis par Paul Gsell (Paris, 1911), p. 46, 51.
Daniel Rosenfeld, ‘Rodin’s Carved Sculpture’ in Rodin Rediscovered edited by Albert E. Elsen (Washington D.C: 1981), p.84.
Jane Mayo Roos, Auguste Rodin (London: 2011), p. 20-21, illust. p. 24.
Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin Vol.2 – with collaboration of Hélène Marraud and Diane Tytgat (Paris, 2007), pp. 413-419.
Peter Fusco and H.W. Janson, The Romantics to Rodin: French Nineteenth-Century Sculpture from North American Collections (Los Angeles: 1980), p. 328.
Robert Bowman, Rodin in Private Hands – with Introduction by David Ekserdjian (London: 2014), pp. 198-209.