Éternelle Idole (Eternal Idol), Petit Modèle
Signed A. Rodin and with repeat interior raised signature A. Rodin.
Inscribed Alexis Rudier Fondeur. Paris
Bronze with a rich brown patina
Height: 6 7/8" (17.4 cm)
Conceived in 1889. The Comité Rodin states that at least 2 bronzes were cast during Rodin's lifetime. This cast is one of no more than 15 bronzes produced between 1927-1944. This example was cast in 1944.
Provenance & Comité Rodin certificate available on request.
Conceived in 1889, this example was cast in 1944. The Comité Rodin states that two casts of the model in this size were produced during Rodin’s lifetime. At least thirteen casts were produced by the Alexis Rudier foundry between 1927 and 1945. One more cast was produced by Georges Rudier in 1958.
Rodin conceived the Eternal Idol whilst working on The Gates of Hell, incorporating both of the figures independently onto the right-hand doorway. Sometime before 1890 the figures were combined into the group we now know. Rodin made a small 17cm high bronze (the only lifetime cast of this model), which was delivered to the collector Antoni Roux in 1891. Roux later encouraged Rodin to produce a larger version of the model, which was carved in marble by Jean Escoula.
The work became one of Rodin’s most powerful groups and its emotive force has elicited a range of symbolic interpretations. It is often seen as a depiction of tender adoration, the man’s hands clasped behind his back in a symbol of respectful abstinence. Conversely, others have suggested the man’s hands are not clasped in a respectful manner, but rather show that he is enslaved by the woman, unable to escape her power as she looks down pitifully upon him.
It is also impossible to ignore the similarities to Camille Claudel’s L’Abandon, which was conceived in 1888, one year before the present work. Claudel’s masterpiece uses a similar composition, but the two figures are shown in a loving embrace, rather than separated by the apparent gulf of emotional space in Eternal Idol. Perhaps the work echoed Rodin’s own feelings towards his long-term lover and mistress who he was soon to reject forever.
Jules Desbois, one of Rodin’s many assistants offers the following account of the works inception. ‘One day, from up on the scaffold where I was working on the Burghers of Calais, I noticed Rodin, who between some screens, was doing a nude sculpture, for which the model was a young woman, stretched out on a table. As the session was drawing to a close he bent over toward the woman and kissed her tenderly on the belly - a gesture of adoration of nature, which gave him much joy.’ (Cladel, 1952, p. 271)
Perhaps, like a number of Rodin’s greatest masterpieces, the true power of the model lies in its ambiguity. The novelist and poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who wrote a monograph on Rodin in 1903, argued that ‘a grandeur steeped in mystery emanates from this group. One dare not attribute a meaning to it. It has thousands… There is something like the atmosphere of Purgatory in this work. Heaven is near, but has not yet been reached; Hell is near, but has not yet been forgotten.’ (Rilke, 2018, p.51)
This is the original size of this model, conceived by Rodin in 1889. The first cast was delivered to the collector Antoni Roux in 1891.
Antoinette le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: The Catalogue Works in the Musée Rodin, Vol. 1 (Paris: 2007), p. 328-329.
Catherine Lampert, Rodin: Sculpture and Drawings (London: 1986), p.93, nr. 165 (plaster cast)
Jane Mayo Roos, Auguste Rodin (London: 2010), p.126, nr. 128 (plaster cast).
Judith Cladel, Rodin: The Man and His Art (London: 1953), p. 271
Rainer Maria Rilke, August Rodin – translated by Jessie Lemont and Hans Trausil (Los Angeles: 2018), p. 51.