Giganti, Torse Masculin (Torso of Giganti)
Signed A. Rodin
Inscribed with the foundry mark .Georges Rudier..Fondeur.Paris. and © by Musée Rodin 1973
Stamped with the raised signature A. Rodin (on the interior)
Bronze with a dark brown and black patination with lighter green highlights
Height: 10 3/8'' (26.3 cm)
Conceived in 1880-85 and cast in an edition of at least 3 by the Alexis Rudier foundry plus a further 10 casts by the Georges Rudier foundry between 1966-74; this example cast in 1973-1974.
During the 1880s, the Italian model Giganti posed at length for Auguste Rodin, the Paris-based English sculptor Jessie Lipscomb, and Camille Claudel – Rodin’s muse, collaborator and lover. The exchanges between the model and the artists was so frequent that Rodin noted his address, 64 rue du Château, in one of his notebooks. While Giganti’s full name is not known, his figure was extensively immortalised by both Rodin and Claudel.
Claudel represented the model in two circumstances. The first work, known as Giganti, is a bust currently housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille. With his chin held high, his sharp, handsome features and piercing eyes, the piece represents an arresting portrait of the model. The work is also known as Tête de Bandit (Head of a Bandit), perhaps as a reference to the proud and fearful look on the figure’s face, or as a direct reference to Giganti’s origins in Naples, where the widespread practice of ‘brigantaggio’ and ‘banditismo’ had been fought by the French during the Napoleonic domination in the region.
Camille Claudel, Giganti (ou Tête de Bandit), ca 1885, Bronze, Musée des Beaux-ARts
The second piece, known as L’Homme Penché (Man Leaning), shows Giganti’s tense musculature. The figure is depicted in a crouching, contorted pose that is reminiscent of Rodin’s own experimentations with the human form to illustrate anguish, which the artist exploited extensively in his Gates of Hell. As a recent purchase of the French government from the family of the artist, the plaster has attracted a lot of scholarly attention, solidifying even further the knowledge of the artistic exchanges that existed between Claudel and Rodin.
Camille Claudel, Man Leaning, ca 1886, plaster, Roubaix, La Piscine-musée d'art et d'industrie André Diligent (photo courtesy of Musée d’Orsay, Artcurial / DR)
Unlike Claudel, Rodin sculpted the full figure of Giganti in 1885, then dividing it into single parts, as was typical with his working practice. The Head, which was cast in bronze at a later date by the Alexis Rudier Foundry, served as a model for the figures framing the tympanum frieze of the Gates of Hell. Likewise, the present Torso constituted a precedent for the numerous studies and depictions of nude figures that appear on the Gates.
A.Rodin, Giganti, 1885, bronze, Musée Rodin
Despite being conceived in the mid-1880s, the Torso was exhibited publicly for the first time in 1897 at the First International Exhibition of Fine Arts in Dresden, where it was purchased for the State of Saxony’s Staatliche Kunstsammlungen. Apart from the model currently housed in Dresden, two more examples were cast by the Alexis Rudier Foundry. The edition was taken up again by Georges Rudier between 1966 and 1974, which cast 10 versions of the model.
With its stark modelling, conception history and its recurrent presence in the artist’s oeuvre, the Torso represents a compelling image both in art-historical and visual terms, representing at once Rodin’s artistic network as well as his independent working practice.