H. de Roos - Towards a catalog of the Maclaren collection

A discussion with Gary Arseneau and Dr David Schaff (8)

"The Majority Of These Works .... Date From The Artist's Lifetime."

Still, the central statement of this message needed further explanation, so that our correspondence continued:

Now the history of these plasters starts getting filled with some life and gets related to persons and places and practices, so that we can talk more concretely.

The Large Hand of God: this was clearly indicated in the exhibition. (The Gruppo Mondiale) told me October 2, 2001, it would have been made after the marble at the Metropolitan, gift of Edward D. Adams, 1908, Cat. Nr 08.210 (Rodin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Clare Vincent, Item 32, p. 30]. But Mary (Reid) would not confirm this to me November 5, 2001.

What about the Hand of Rodin? Do we agree the composition was not made by Rodin himself? Arseneau attacks you for calling the plaster "authentic", although Rodin had been fighting the accusation of surmoulage since the Age of Bronze.(...)

You write: "(...) others clearly came from his studio or from his founders just after 1900. These include all the large and major forms, for which there is further evidence revealed in their recent conservation and in the casting histories."
Why "clearly"? What makes it so clear? What exactly is that "further evidence revealed in their recent conservation and in the casting histories"? That is the core of the story, as far as providence and authenticity is concerned.

[From: Letter to Dr. David Schaff, 30 Nov. 2001]

This letter was answered by David Schaff with further details, referring to the history of single plasters still more precisely:

Dear Hans,

Your letter has some complex issues which my schedule may not allow me to address at sufficient length today, but I do wish to give you some answers to the specific questions.

The Large Hand of God - No, this is not a lifetime plaster or even close. There is no evidence of water absorption, patination from the atmosphere, or other signs of significant age. This plaster derived (perhaps 20 years ago?) from the 1902 version exhibited in Vienna and Berlin in 1903, then later sold to Albert Kahn, one of Rodin's most powerful patrons. According to sources at the Musee Rodin, Kahn acquired the sculpture ca. 1903 and all rights. Rodin agreed not to make a mold or a cast. (I have not seen these documents but I trust the veracity of the researcher.) Supposedly, the marble passed at some time to the Rothschild collection in Beaulieu sur Mer or elsewhere, but there is no verification of this supposition and no trace of the marble today. Technically, the owner of the marble would retain the rights under reproduction, at least under French law. This version is not a cast from a mold made on the Edward D. Adams marble at the Metropolitan - whose dimensions are 73.5 x 58.5 x 64. This version is considerably larger. It may only be "after," no closer.

Hand of Rodin holding a Female Torso -Tancock's entry is succinct but correct and reflects the other comments you list. In my view the manufacture reflects the practice of Rodin's studio, even in this odd example, but if you have seen my declaration you already know that I believe this is not a work by Auguste Rodin, rather one by Benedite and Cruet. The torso, which seems to me a bad doddle in clay after an antique prototype perhaps a small version of the Hellenistic Venus Pudica, is by Rodin; it is among the least interesting of his compositions. This plaster may well generate from the Cantor casting, a casting which in my view should never have been done. I termed the piece an authentic work by the studio assistants - of course, Arseneau did not take time to get the facts straight, so eager was he to attack. Note: the terms for taking the mold is usually "moulage" while "surmoulage," although it means much the same, has been usually restricted to making a mold from a bronze.

You are quite correct that I believe that all the works in the MacLaren collection generate from authentic forms by Auguste Rodin (either studio molds or duplicate foundry molds) and that the majority of these works, especially in importance, date from the artist's lifetime.

In example after example they conform within strict tolerances to fully provenanced compositions in the same material or in bronze. You have already done the work of Eve with square base. The same may be done by comparing the large Eve to the lifetime bronzes, which are rare, just as you may compare the Age of Bronze to the version at the National Gallery - a bit crisper better cast perhaps - und so weiter.

Connoisseurship is one thing, but it is more powerful with scientific evidence behind it. This situation is why I found Mary Reid's summary of the conservator's findings that the degradation and bleeding out of core materials prove many of these works are between 100 and 80 years old so exciting. This is an important finding which verifies the age of the plasters beyond comparison and politics.

A number of these items are rare: research into the casting history of Torso Morhardt for example reveals that it was cast only ca. 1900 and perhaps ca. 1942. The smallest Age of Bronze and the Torso of Age of Bronze were issued only during Rodin's lifetime. A piece by piece examination validates the dating for three quaters of the works.

William may have misspoken about dating, but Madame Romain states an untruth. Inscription and signature by Rodin takes three forms - writings in pencil and ink, incised inscriptions, and foundry signatures and cachets. Please look at Tancock and de Caso for numerous examples on signatues and inscripitons, both written and incised. Rodin was extremely diligent about his copyrights.
He did not send bronzes to the foundries without authority to place signatures.

That all for now.(..)

Best regards


[From: Letter from Dr David Schaff to the author, 3 Dec. 2001]




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