Rodin Works: fugit amor, Head of SoRrow, The Last Sigh

'Fugitive love' is a version of the popular theme of the lovers Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, carried by a whirlwind in the Second Circle of Hell, where they report their fate to the poet Dante: at the moment of their first kiss, they were murdered for their illicit love affair by Francesca's husband and eternally damned. While working at his monumental 'Gates of Hell', Rodin frequently recurred to this subject and presented the couple in various constellations, like the famous 'The Kiss' and under the title 'Paolo and Francesca'.

As shown on photos made by Jesse Lipscomb, 'Fugit Amor' or 'Fugitive Love' replaced 'The Kiss' as the dominant group at the left door of  'The Gates of Hell' around 1887.  'The Kiss'  lived on as an independent work and became known as one as the most famous sculptures of all time.

In the same year 1887, 'Fugit Amor' was for the first time exhibited, at the Sixth International Exhibtion of Painting and Sculpture at the Gallery Georges Petit. Isolated from its placement on the door,  Francesca's body is facing earth, Paolo has complete legs. Fugit Amor, marble. Photo: HesmergIt is probable that Rodin originally designed the group in this horizontal position and that the upright direction we see in 'The Gates' developed only through its attachment to the door.

The strenuous pose of the woman, lying flat on her belly and rising aloft with her head and arms, her torso arched back while her male partner upholds this tension by gripping her necks and bossom, reminds of Canova's 'Cupid and Psyche' of 1796 (marble, Hermitage). In the case of 'Fugit amor', Paolo has a great deal of trouble in his supine position clinging to his lover, rudely pinching her breast.

Athena Spear dates the origin of this love couple back to 1883-85, because its design no longer is dominated by Michelangelo's style, still clearly influencing earlier elements of 'The Gates' like 'Adam' and 'Eve' (around 1881);  Fugit Amor, marbleits expression of desperate desire might have its roots in the passionate relationship between Rodin and Camille Claudel, unfolding quite rapidly after their first meeting in Boucher's sculpture class in 1883.

The male figure, turned vertically again, also became known as an isolated character: 'The Prodigal Son'.

Paolo's head is used several times in 'The Gates of Hell' – e.g. in 'Paolo and Francesca' and in 'Ugolino and his Sons' - and known under the title 'Head of Sorrow' as an isolated fragment. Michelle  Facos interpreted the repetetive use of the same face in 'The Gates' as the introduction of unifying elements to harmonize the chaotic scene of sinners. But possibly, these multiplications solely resulted from Rodin's tendency to treat the shapes he created as mere modules, that could be viewed from different perspectives, combined with oHead of Sorrow, bronze, Musée Rodinther components and charged with varying significations. By turning these elements upside down, displaying them in different scales and fitting them into changing assemblages, he was able to describe Dante's Inferno with his own vocabulary of forms and quickly populate the huge surface of the portal with a crowd of small figures.

In 1904, a marble version was carved for Louise Haniel, initially to be named 'Head of Medusa', then 'Head of Orpheus' (reffering to the still singing head of Apollo's son after being torn in bits by the Furies), finally 'The last Sigh'. In 1907, another marble version was ordered by Carl Jacobsen. In 1913, apparently recurred this a marble version to design a 'Monument to Joan of Arc', which was never realised. Like with many Rodin works, this exquisite marble carving was used to produce a mould for bronze casting.

Bernini's 'The Ecstasy of St. Theresa' (marble, 1645-52) in the Cornaro Chapel in RomeBernini's 'The Ecstasy of St. Theresa' (marble, 1645-52) in the Cornaro Chapel in RomeBernini's 'Blessed Ludovica Albertoni' (1671-74) in San Francesca a Ripa, in RomeAs Tancock convincingly demonstrates, the 'Head's' wide-open mouth and blind eyes appear as if directly copied from Bernini's 'The Ecstasy of St. Theresa' (marble, 1645-52) in the Cornaro Chapel in Rome, which in turn is nearly identical to the face of Bernini's 'Blessed Ludovica Albertoni' (1671-74) in San Francesca a Ripa, in Rome as well. Whereas St Theresa is depicted while experiencing her visions, the Arrow of Divine Love transfixing her heart, St Ludovica is represented on her death bed. Rodin, who had intensively studied the Renaissance and Baroque Masters in Florence and Rome, must have been inspired by this extravagant combination of passion, pain and death agony while creating his 'Head of Sorrow' ; the title 'The Last Sigh' for the Haniel marble sounds like a straightforward referral to Bernini's dying 'Ludovica'.



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