Author´s note

  Author's note as of 28 May 2003: 

The following two articles have been on the Web since 18 months now, as part of a larger report (altogether ca. 180 pages) on the Toronto exhibition "Plaster to Bronze" and the related Symposium on the question of originality in Rodin's work, in November 2001.

Today, I was informed by a spokesman of the Gruppo Mondiale Est (the original collector of the plasters shown in Toronto) that the Musée Rodin in its recent communication with other institutions would refer to my essays to question the quality of the discussed plaster items, the exhibition "Plaster to Bronze" and the competence of Canadian Museum staff. 

The Rodin-Web is an independent, academic platform. The articles published in this web folder were researched in order to establish the most elementary information on a series of art objects, that already were in the center of an international cultural controversy, although simple, basic documentation on the names of their pre-owners, their age of creation and their physical state in comparison to other reference plasters was neither available to the invited Symposium speakers nor to the larger public. 

I deleted most of my original text - containing extensive chapters on the significance of foundry plasters, on the role of damage in Rodin´s work, on the posthumous casting practice of the Musée Rodin, on economic aspects of Rodin sculptures, on the communication between the Musée Rodin and the Canadians, on the desastrous lack of information, among others - from the Internet as early as January 2002; I saw no reason to dedicate so much web space to a discussion to which none of the parties materially involved (the MacLaren Art Centre, the Canadian donors, the Gruppo Mondiale, the Musée Rodin and various institutional experts) was willing to contribute an articulate, written analysis at all. 

The inability of public institutions to initiate and maintain a proper academic dialogue is stunning and embarrassing. I am quite surprised to hear today that the remaining chapters of my report now seem to play a role in the ongoing "debate" again.

Although the MacLaren Art Center has not published any written materials yet to sustain the quality of their collection in a scholarly way, I have been informed that various high-ranking Rodin experts have recently formulated a positive opinion on these sculptures. But none of these appraisals has been available for review or publication till now - the donation still being under review of the Canadian authorities.

I agree with the Gruppo Mondiale that the precise age of the plasters only is of limited significance with regard to their morphological quality. Talking of shape, it is irrelevant if a plaster copy was drawn from the mould 20, 50, 70 or 100 years ago - except for aspects of patination from the air, damages that happen in the course of time, etc. It could even be argued with good reason that "shape" is the only property that really matters for a foundry plaster, that is, for an object that was created for translation into other materials, like bronze. Obviously, the Musée Rodin is of the same opinion: For the production of posthumous casts, fresh foundry plasters are drawn from the bon creux moulds in Meudon. The Gruppo Mondiale now claims that for many important Rodin works, the Musée Rodin even does not possess such bon creux moulds (negative forms) at all - which means that some newly produced foundry plasters would be reproduced from existing plaster positive forms. This would be a most interesting issue to settle in the course of further research. 

Still I maintain that the provenance and age of the MacLaren plasters is a topic that should be researched, documented and published with urgency - especially when a public Museum claims to display the world´s largest collection of "original", "lifetime" or "early" Rodin plasters outside Meudon and tax deductions amounting to 50 Million Can $ should be granted in order to facilitate its donation. My report on these questions has been the first publication worldwide that has attempted to analyze the relevant categories and initiate a dialogue with the exhibition curators, in order to collect basic facts on quality, provenance and age of individual plaster items.

My offer still holds: Any person or institution that wants to contribute his (or her) information or opinion to the current debate is invited to submit his text proposal to the Rodin-Web and have it published here. In the meantime, the Rodin-Web team will set forth its own  morphological research programme, to document the precise shape of original Rodin plasters in various Museum collections in an objective, exact way.

Hans de Roos




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