Danaide, petit modèle, version type III
Signed A.Rodin and with repeat interior raised signature
Inscribed with the foundry mark Alexis RUDIER. Fondeur. PARIS
Bronze with dark brown patina, and red, brown and green highights
Height: 81/2" (21.5 cm )
Conceived in 1885, this example cast between 1930 and 1940
16 casts were produced under Rodin’s contract with the Alexis Rudier foundry between 1889 and 1942
Conceived in 1885, this example cast between 1930 and 1940. There are three distinct versions of the Danaide, petit modèle of which this is the work know at the variant number three, the final version. It is not possible to tell from the records which of the Danaide casts were of which model but we do know that only 16 casts were produced under Rodin’s contract with the Alexis Rudier foundry between 1889 and 1942.
The Danaide was originally conceived as part of The Gates of Hell, but was eventually omitted from the final design. The work was inspired by the story of the daughters of Danaus, taken from Greek mythology.
In this myth, Danaus, the son of the King of Egypt, had fifty daughters named the Danaides. His brother Aegyptus had fifty sons. Threatened by his brother, Danaus sailed to Argos with his daughters. The sons of Aegyptus pursued their cousins with the intention of marrying them and so furthering their power. The daughters were unwilling to marry but were forced to consent. Danaus therefore ordered his daughters to stab their husbands to death on their wedding night. Forty-nine obeyed their father, with only Hypermnestra sparing her beloved husband Lynceus. As a punishment for their crimes, the guilty Danaides were punished in the Underworld by having to try to fill broken vessels with water for eternity.
In the present model, Rodin portrays one of the Danaides, who has thrown herself to the ground, her water vessel by her side and her long hair flowing over the rocks. The sculptor conveys the stricken woman’s despair at her absurd and inexorable task of endlessly refilling the broken vessel.
Rodin depicts the woman as youthful, sensual and vibrant despite her exhausting life in the underworld. As was common in the sculptor’s work, here sensuality and pessimism go hand in hand. The sculpture is both alluring and despondent, a figure of youthful beauty and a manifestation of eternal despair.
It has been suggested by Monique Laurent that the model for the work was in fact Camille Claudel, although this theory remains unproven. The theory was popularised by Bruno Nuytten’s movie Camille Claudel, which merged fact and fiction by showing Camille kneeling on the floor modeling for the work.
Rodin began work on Danaide in 1880 and at the end of the decade the work was enlarged and transformed into marble for the Scandinavian collector, Dr. H. F. Antell. This marble was exhibited at the 1889 ‘Monet-Rodin’ exhibition at the Galerie George Petit where it received considerable press attention. After the success of this exhibition Rodin commissioned Jean Escoula to a make a second marble of the Danaide, which is considered to be one of the finest marbles ever produced in his atelier (pictured below). This second version was exhibited at the Salon of 1890 and was purchased by the French government. Known as the Luxembourg Danaide it was originally in the collection of the Musée du Luxembourg. It is now housed in the Musée Rodin collection.