Rodin Works: adam and eve

In 1880, Rodin proposed to Turquet, the Undersecretary for fine Arts, to flank his 'Gates of Hell' by two colossal statues: Adam and Eve, the first sinners. Each of them should cost 5.000 Francs as isolated figures, which shows the importance the artist gave these sculptures himself. He decided to realize this popular constellation after he had visited the two most famous versions of this subject: Masaccio's 'Adam and Eve' in Santa Maria Novella, Florence, and the Sistine Chapel in Rome with Michelangelo's frescos , featuring Adam reaching his hand out to God as the central scene. When he returned to Brussels after his trip to Italy in 1876, Rodin immediately began with the male person.

Rotate this image: 'Adam' by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

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But being dissatisfied with his first outline of 'Adam', because he thought it too close to Michelangelo's style, he destroyed this first version. Rodin's second version, though, still looks like very similar to Buonarotti's 'Adam' as painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This becomes especially clear if we change the traditional perspective and perceive Michelangelo's 'Adam' as a standing instead of a sitting figure. This way we also discover that by rotating the figure while preserving its attitude, Rodin made Adam look down, instead of facing his Father-Creator. We understand this downward look as an expression of shame and guilt: from the hopeful moment of creation - as depicted by Michelangelo - Rodin has taken us to the deplorable scene of sin and remorse.

Adam, plaster, looking down

Only as the second version was nearing completion he started with 'Eve'. The figure of Eve was the first life-size female figure Rodin modeled, after his 'Bacchante' had been destroyed by accident.

 In 1881, 'Adam' was already shown at the Salon under the title 'The Creation of Man'. The modeling of 'Eve', however, was never completed in the life-size version. According to an anecdote, frequently dissipated by Rodin, his model became pregnant and subsequently left for a trip to Italy together with a Russian assisstant. To Dujardin-Beaumetz, he spoke of two Italian sisters who modeled for him; the darker one had..'Eve', large version, plaster

"..sunburned skin, warm, with the bronze reflections of the women of sunny lands; her movements were quick and feline, with the lissomeness and grace of a panther; all the strength and splendor of muscular beauty, and that perfect equilibrium, that simplicity of bearing which makes great gesture. At that time I was working on my statue Eve.

Without knowing why, I saw my model changing. I modified my contours, naively following the successive transformations of ever-amplifying forms. One day, I learned that she was pregnant; then I understood. The contours of the belly had hardly changed, but you can see the sincerity with which I copied nature in looking at the muscles of the loins and sides. It certainly hadn't occurred to me to take a pregnant woman as a model for Eve; an accident - happy for me - gave her to me and it aided the character of the figure singularly. But soon, becoming more sensitive, my model found the studio too cold; she came less frequently, then not at all. That is why my Eve is unfinished."

[H. Dujardin-Beaumetz, Entretiens avec Rodin, 1913]

Edmond de Goncourt, who saw an unfinished 'Eve' in Rodin's studio in April 1886, reported:

[Rodin] shows us also a robust roughcast [sketch] of a nude woman, an Italian, a short and supple creature, a panther, as he puts it, which he says with regret in his voice he cannot finish because on of his pupils, a Russian, fell in love with her and married her." Eve, large version, posthumous bronze cast, LACMA

In most Rodin catalogues, it is assumed Rodin was talking about the Abruzzezzi sisters, Adèle and Anna, Anna being the darker type referred to. By now, archive research has established that Anna impossibly could have been the pregnant model for 'Eve'; probably, Rodin - having his conversation with Dujardin-Beaumetz only twenty years after - had mixed up his recollection of the Abruzzezzi sisters with that of another Italian model, Carmen Visconti. As Lynne Ambrosini demonstrates, Anna Abruzzezzi was born in Rome in 1874, so that between 1881 and 1886, she had been far too young to be pregnant. As a matter of fact, Anna did have a pregnancy, but only in 1895, while having a love affair with the French painter Auguste François Gorguet during her vacation in Rome. Gorguet terminated the affair and refused to support the young mother; in January 1897, an outraged Anna tried to throw biting acid into her unloyal lover's face, thereby mutilating herself more than him. She was arrested and convicted; Rodin and other artists created a fund to support her. 

Carmen Visconti of Fiesole, on the other hand, did have a love relationship with a Russian painter, Nicolas Enilioti, who took her on holidays to Chevreuse. In several newspaper interviews, Carmen - a dark type as well - reported she had posed for 'Eve', 'The Kiss' and 'The Wave' ('Toilette of Venus'). Strut at the ankle Altogether, she had modeled for Rodin during  a period of 13 years, including the early 1880's.

The large 'Eve' version, though unfinished, was cast in bronze all the same, still showing the metal strut at the ankle that had helped stabilize the plaster construction: Like in 'The Prodigal Son', Rodin fancied preserving such details from his creativeEve; medium version, plaster process.

Working with a thinner English model, Rodin executed also a smaller version of 'Eve' in a manner more smooth and feminine  than the roughly modeled surface of the large-scale version.

"From a distance she seems to be enfolded in her arms, with hands turned to the outside as if to push away everything, even her own changing body."
[Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin, 1928]

Both 'Adam' and 'Eve' have poses based on a pronounced contrapposto, much in the style of Michelangelo, one foot resting on an elevation.'Eve's' body shows a gentle S-curve, with the arms crossed over the breast and a downcast head. Her protective attitude expresses her shame and remorse after the Fall:

 "Ashamed of her fault, shrinking in fear, vaguely anguished not so much by remorse for her sin but by the idea of creating other human beings who will suffer in the future, (... the big) Eve is a bronze of an extraordinary aspect and all of Rodin is in it." [Camille Mauclair, Auguste Rodin, 1918]

In Rodin's work, 'Eve' does not appear as the originator of human sin, as a representation of evil; rather she represents the frailty of the human condition, exposed to threats and seduction.

As a variation of 'Adam' with a less distorted attitude, Rodin executed 'The Three Shades': a triple representation of the same figure, mounted on top of 'The Gates of Hell'.



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