H. de Roos - What is an original Rodin?


Still, Rodin was very aware of the fact a talented workman could give the work his own interpretation; for this reason, he was not very happy with the bust of Mme. Morla Vicuna, executed in marble by Jean Escoula after the clay model and exhibited at the Salon of 1888. The work was highly praised and the French State hastened to buy it from Mme. Vicuna shortly after it was ready [Descharnes, p. 122, Jarassé, p. 195]. The bust was perfectly done but the marblecutter had somehow left his own handwriting in it:


Exquisitely charming as it is, the sculptor does not regard is as a fully satisfactory reproduction of his model, because it bears too much the impress of the character of the superior marblecutter who executed it. Rodin understands the fine fact, that just in proportion that a marble workman excels in his trade does he unconciously give his work his own interpretation of the model which he copies. And this in spite of the most exacting means of mechanical measurement that he may employ. With a sensitive sculptor this is precisely what is not wanted, and the only way that he can insure the exact reproduction of his model in marble is to do the work himself. But this method is practically impossible, because he can not afford to do it for the prices he receives.

 [Bartlett, p. 84, quoted by Tancock, p. 36; see Spears, p. 70, Vincent p. 30, catalog note 32]. 


Bust of Mme. Vicuna, 1884-88,
cut in marble by Jean Escoula
To enlarge the image click here.

A very fine, rose marble of Eve done by Bourdelle he called the "Bourdelle Eve" [Tancock, 39].
Is the bust of Mme. Vicuna a Rodin now, or an Escoula? Is "Bourdelle´s Eve" a Bourdelle, or a Rodin all the same? Generally, Rodin supervised the carving very closely and authorized the result, and the works were sold under his name. Some carvings he rejected because of their insufficient quality, like the first version of the Eve Fairfax bust [Grunfeld p. 509].





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