Étude pour le Secret (Study for the Secret)
Signed A. Rodin
Inscribed with the foundry mark A Rudier. Fondeur Paris
Bronze with dark brown patination and lighter brown highlights
Height: 4 3/4" (12 cm)
Conceived in 1910; this example cast between 1931-45. Two examples cast by the Alexis Rudier foundry during Rodin's lifetime, and then 8 more examples cast by the Musée between 1931-1952. Another 8 examples cast by the Georges Rudier foundry between 1955-1958.
The conception of the present piece, known as the Etude pour le Secret (Study for the Secret), relates to another famous work by Rodin, known as La Cathédrale (The Cathedral). The works were conceived two years apart from each other, in 1910 and 1918 respectively, and relate to Rodin’s fascination with hands and their sculptural representation.
Rodin, La Cathédrale, marble, 1910, Musée Rodin
The artist started focusing on this subject perhaps as a direct result of the numerous studies conducted by the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1940), whose research on animals and figures in motion represented a great source of inspiration for many 19th-century artists. Rodin is attested to receiving a copy of Muybridge’s publication, Animal Locomotion, in 1887.
Photographs of the single hands in Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion.
Rather than focusing on the study of a single hand, the present work demonstrates the artist’s reuse of single body parts to create an effective, condensed narrative, which characterises both the symbolist and modernist aspects of his production.
Two right hands are placed one in front of the other, almost mirroring each other. Rodin added a cylindrical object in the finished version of the piece so as to signify the impossibility of the encounter between the two. In the present study, however, the lack of such an object creates a different form of tension, which is heightened by the space between the two.
A.Rodin, The Secret, 1910 (cast in 1925), Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
It is through such a space that the present work displays the evocative, almost mystic, power of its companion piece, The Cathedral. Rodin had been so fascinated by the Gothic architecture of French churches that he wrote and illustrated a book on the subject, Les Cathédrales de France (French Cathedrals), in 1914. In the artist’s own words, the aim of the book was ‘to inspire a love for this great art, to come to the rescue of as much of it as still remains intact; to save for our children the great lesson of this past which the present misunderstands. In this desire I strive to awaken intellects and hearts to understanding and to love.’
In his Cathedral, the artist channelled his understanding and love of the art professed in the book, filtering the great vertical lines and dizzying empty spaces that characterise Gothic architecture through his symbolic representation of two mirroring hands. Indeed, the piece’s upper thrust and interplay of empty spaces ultimately connects it with the present Study for the Secret.
Rodin cast this model twice in his lifetime, in 1916 and 1917 respectively; the latter was commissioned by the British painter John Lavery and was exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition in memory of the artist, organised in London in December 1917. The Musée Rodin continued editing the piece with the Alexis and Georges Rudier foundries, each casting the model 8 times. Archival records testify that the present model was cast by the former during the first period of production, between 1931 and 1945.