Rodin Works: Bust of Madame Vicuna


The Bust of Madame Vicuna, marble, Musée d'OrsayThis well-known portrait of the wife of the Chilean Ambassador to Paris, Mme Luisa Lynch de Morla Vicuna, is also known as 'The Charmer' and 'Girlhood'. 

Even if it was only exhibited in 1888 at the Salon, the marble version was probably already completed in 1884. In July 1888, the state purchased this popular bust from M. Vicuna for 3.000 francs.  To compensate M. Vicuna for the loss of the marble portrait of his wife, Rodin presented him two other works.

With the reserved and smooth facial features, Rodin perfectly captured the spirit of the fashionable and chic ladys of these times, as Georges Geffroy mentions. This society portrait was only the beginning of the long series of personality busts, which became Rodin's main source of income after 1900.

Although the marble was highly praised , Rodin himself never was fully satisfied with the 'Bust of Mme Vicuna', because the perfect carving of this marble was obviously realised by his practicien Jean Escoula: 

"Exquisitely charming as it is, the sculptor does not regard is as a fully satisfactory reproduction of his model, because it bears too much the impress of the character of the superior marblecutter who executed it. Rodin understands the fine fact, that just in proportion that a marble workman excels in his trade does he unconciously give his work his own interpretation of the model which he copies. And this in spite of the most exacting means of mechanical measurement that he may employ. With a sensitive sculptor this is precisely what is not wanted, and the only way that he can insure the exact reproduction of his model in marble is to do the work himself. But this method is practically impossible, because he can not afford to do it for the prices he receives."

[Bartlett, p. 84, quoted by Tancock, p. 36; see Spear, p. 70, Vincent p. 30, catalog note 32; Elsen, Rodin's Art, p. 458]. 

Whereas the marble version shows flowers and indicates the line of a robe, the Cantor Foundation owns a bronze version based on a plaster lacking these attributes.


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