Buste de Victor Hugo (Bust of Victor Hugo)
Signed A. Rodin
Bronze with brown patina
Height: 15.2" (38.7 cm)
Conceived circa 1885, this cast executed by François Rudier in May-June 1897. Just seven casts of this model were made during the artist's lifetime.
Comité Rodin certificate available on request
Purchased from Rodin by Elizabeth D. Putnam (1867-1928) in May-June 1897, thence by descent
Exhibited at 'Rodin and America: Influence and Adaptation, 1876-1936', Stanford University Gallery, 2011-2012
The piece was featured in the exhibition at Stanford university Art Gallery, “Rodin and America. Influence and adaptation 1876-1936”, October 2011-January 2012, in art. Rodin and his American collectors by Ana Tahinci, p. 331 listed.
Conceived circa 1885, this bronze was cast by the François Rudier foundry in 1897. The Comité Rodin states that at least 7 casts of this model in this size were produced between 1893 and 1916 by the Griffoul & Lorge, J.B. Griffou, François Rudier and Alexis Rudier foundries. The Georges Rudier foundry cast four editions of the same model for the Musée Rodin between 1962 and 1973, and two more casts were produced by the Émile Godard foundry in 1980.
The Bust of Victor Hugo is sold together with a framed letter of provenance from the first owner of the work – Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Duncan Putnam (1867-1928) – and with an etching signed by the artist.
Auguste Rodin was introduced to the great Romantic Writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885) in 1883 by the journalist Edmond Bazire. The artist produced the first, full-size bronze of the model in the same year, donating it to the sitter. Another bronze cast, produced a few months later, was inscribed with a line from La Légende des Siècles: ‘Un Poète est un monde enfermé dans un Homme’ (A Poet is a World enshrined in a Man) and was shown at the 1884 Salon. The present version of the piece is a ‘reduction’ of Rodin’s initial concept for the work, being roughly 12 cm smaller than the bronze donated by the artist to Hugo.
Frederick Lawton’s text, typewritten in the letter of provenance accompanying the piece, highlights the unorthodox nature of Hugo’s sittings for the piece, since he only agreed ‘that Rodin should come and lunch every day if he wished to make the sketches he needed during the meal.’ The studies for the portrait were thus produced during numerous lunches at the author’s house, who never posed for the artist in his studio. Engravings such as the one accompanying this piece were made after these studies.
The bust and engraving were acquired by Elizabeth D. Putnam directly from the artist in 1897, remaining in the family’s collection ever since. Elizabeth Putnam was an archaeologist, member of the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences and an amateur painter. Rodin’s interest in archaeology constituted the basis of their friendly relationship, which, according to archival documents, continued until 1903. In the letter of provenance, Ms Putnam describes how she acquired the work:
‘Rodin showed me a number of etchings and when I asked how much they were he replied he never had sold one. He finally asked fifty francs and signed it before me. The bust I paid 150 francs for. The head of the foundry [François Rudier] happened to be there and Rodin gave directions to have it cast especially.’
The letter constitutes a fascinating window into Rodin’s studio life, as well as a fantastic item of provenance.