H. de Roos - What is an original Rodin?


If all these criteria are met and thus all information is disclosed, the question if the cast is called an "original" or a "reproduction" seems to be of purely semantic,  rather subordinated importance. Still it give rise to bitter debate, especially where the French legal definition leaves room for issuing posthumous casts as "original edition". 

Some of the most important works by Rodin - The Gates of Hell, The Monument to Balzac - were never cast during Rodin´s lifetime. The Museum of Decorative Arts was never realized and the Gates of Hell, commissioned to Rodin in 1880, was first cast in 1928 for the Mastbaum Collection, Philadelphia; the second cast was for the Musée Rodin. The Monument to Balzac was commissioned in 1891 by La Société des Gens de Lettres and Rodin worked on it for many years, producing countless nude studies, draped versions, portrait studies. When it was finally ready, the work was rejected and not cast in bronze until after Rodin's death, to be placed on the Boulevard Raspail in 1939. In both cases, I do not know ob any objections, or demands by contemporaries these casts should be called "reproductions". Tancock writes:

There is no doubt that the decision to make bronze casts of works that were as important as The Gates of Hell or the Balzac was thoroughly justified. A number of the unedited works cast more recently, however, for the most part very minor pieces and preliminary studies, are sad testimony to Rodin´s foresight (some plasters unsuitable for bronze casting might be exploited for that purpose all the same).

[Tancock, p. 35]

Rodin´s Monument to Victor Hugo was commissioned in 1889 and meant to be placed in front of the Pantheon. Here, it had to match Jean-Antoine Injalbert´s Monument to Mirabeau. But since Rodin choose for a more horizontal view, the dimensions did not fit together and his design was rejected - another chance being given to him to create a new contribution to the Pantheon and to realize his Victor Hugo monument at an alternative location. 

In his Symposium presentation, Robert Torchia pointed out that Rodin´s models did not fail to be realized because "the politics of the whole enterprise were not right" [Butler, p. 16] or because of the "prejudices of (our) ancestors" [Jean Mayo Roos, in Butler, p. 105] but primarily because of Rodin´s refusal to adapt his monument to the given architectural environment and his own indecisiveness how to solve its principal compositional problems. Finally, a marble sculpture of the Poet, resting on the island of Guernsy, without Muses, was carved for the Salon of 1901 and, with the support of Dujardin-Beaumetz, placed in the gardens of the Palais-Royal in 1909, where it stayed till 1933 [Butler, p. 16f].

Only when Victor Hugo´s 150th anniversary, the year 1952, was nearing, the City of Paris, looking for a suitable monument, thought of the Rodin´s attempts again, and commissioned a bronze cast from a model Ruth Butler described as a "three-figure plaster in the Musée Rodin, a work that had so been out of view for the past fifty years that it was neither mentioned nor illustrated in the official catalogue of the museum, a catalogue considered as nearly complete" [Butler, p. 19]. 





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