H. de Roos - What is an original Rodin?


Victor Hugo, 1901, marble, 
Gardens of the Palais Royal

Monument to Victor Hugo, bronze, 
posthumous cast 1996, Cantor Foundation

A further bronze example was cast for the Cantor Foundation in 1996. According to French legal definitions, the first twelve copies constitute an "original edition". But since it appeared questionable all the same to produce an "original edition" from a nearly hundred year old model - without knowing for sure if the artist ever wanted it to be sent to the foundry -, an intense discussion developed around the Cantor Foundation´s Victor Hugo cast exhibited at the Cummer Museum in 1999. While Gary Arseneau demanded, this monumental cast should be expressly labelled a "posthumous reproduction with posthumously added signature stamp", the Cummer Museum along with the Cantor Foundation and the Musée Rodin maintained the public was sufficiently informed by the fact 1996 was mentioned as the casting year of the Cantor copy. 

Since January (1999), Arseneau has been pursuing a one-man campaign to discredit the ''Monument to Victor Hugo,'' an exhibit of 20 sculptures by Auguste Rodin, the great 19th century French artist. 

It is Arseneau's contention that the exhibit, which comes to the Cummer Thursday, is being presented in a way that constitutes a fraud. 

The Monument to Victor Hugo, the 2,750-pound centerpiece, was never cast in bronze during Hugo's lifetime. The casting of the statue that was moved into the Cummer last week was authorized by the Musée Rodin, a Paris-based museum which controls the rights to all Hugo's [sic! - HdR] work, and paid for by the California-based Cantor Foundation. 

Arseneau has argued that the posthumously cast sculpture should be called a ''reproduction,'' something that the Cantor Foundation and the four museums that are housing the exhibit have declined to do. Rachel Blackburn, executive director of the Cantor Foundation, argues that the dates on the various sculptures in the exhibition make it clear that many were cast after Rodin's death in 1917. 

They are thus posthumously cast, but that doesn't make them reproductions, she said. Instead, she argued, they are authorized originals, executed with the permission of the Musee Rodin, to which Rodin granted all rights, and done in conformity with the provisions of French law. 

Ruth Butler, a Rodin scholar and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, who is a member of the board of directors of the Musée Rodin, dismissed Arseneau's contention that the Monument to Victor Hugo is a reproduction. 

''It's a silly idea,'' she said. ''Casts are just like prints. There is a mold just like there is a print surface.'' 

From: http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/070499/ent_S0704Ars.html





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