H. de Roos - What is an original Rodin?


Why Does Originality Matter?

Why is the status of a work as "original" so important? Can a bronze cast, posthumously manufactured by a team of experienced artisans, using an original work as a reference, not have the same quality as a lifetime bronze, authorized by the Master personally? Yes and No. The technical quality of the original cast may be repeated. What can not be repeated is the "originality" as such: this is the very quality about the work that can not be reproduced.

Being an original is that special, immediate relationship between an author and his work which is not transmitted by the outer shape of the item. Even when it is no more than an anecdote: it belongs to the work´s aura, it adds to its uniqueness. After all, it is a criterion of rarity, and therefore utmost important for the art collector: after the death of the artist, no more originals can be produced. Also from this economic point of view, the term "original work" should not be diluted.

The practice of adding posthumous Rodin signature stamps is questionable indeed. Even if we know Rodin authorized the foundries to reproduce his signature from an example he supplied and the Musée Rodin in this sense only sets forth this practice, it should be acknowledged such posthumously added signatures falsely suggest the final authorization of the individual cast by the artist in person. An obvious case of abuse, The Hand of Rodin, will be discussed in Part II.

If a visitor leaves the museum building without knowing the bronzes he has seen there were "Rodins", just because they showed no such signature, then something is wrong with the whole exhibition, or with the visitor, not with the bronze cast. On the other hand, if such a signature would convince the same visitor that a 1996 bronze cast was made by Rodin in person, again I would not blame the signature stamp alone for it...




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