Rodin Works: bust of Father Eymard


In 1862, shocked by the sudden death of his sister Maria, Rodin sought for solace in a monastery and joined the Order of the Holy Sacrament, a Catholic order, founded by a friend of the family, Father Peter Julian Eymard, who was canonised on 9 December 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

Eymard found out that Rodin's true vocation was in sculpture, not in praying, and encouraged the grieved young man to pursue his artistic ambitions. In a shed in the garden, Rodin would combine "secular aand theological studies", as Lawton put it. During his time at the Order, Rodin created a portrait of Father Eymard, in the style of David d'Angers, with a strict symmetrical face. Unusual is the top of the bust, revealing the pointed bald corners at each side, bordered by swelling masses of hair, adding an association of mephistolean mischief to the portrait of the holy man. Bartlett relates that Father Eymard..

.. took the sudden fancy that the masses on the sides and top of his bust suggested the 'horns of the devil', and he would not accept it unless these troublesome reminders were reduced to a more human appeareance. This the inflexible young sculptor would not do.

Since the priest would not accept the portrait as his likeness, the copy Rodin had presented to him was stored away. At the branch of the Order in Angers, the bust sank into oblivion until in was found hidden in an attic in 1925. Ironically enough for Père Eymard, the Order today calls itself the proud owner of several casts, displayed in the General House in Rome and in the houses in Montreal, New York, Melbourne and Highland Heights [Cleveland].



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