Signed top of base, lower right: A. Rodin Foundry mark rear of base to right: Alexis Rudier/Fondeur. Paris
Auguste Rodin, French, 1840 - 1917. Cast by the founder Alexis Rudier, Paris, 1874 - 1952.
In 1891 the Société des Gens de Lettres commissioned Rodin to make a monument to the great and prolific author Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). Rodin promised to deliver a bronze figure three meters (118 1/8 inches) in height within eighteen months, to be placed at the Palais-Royal in Paris. He worked on the project for the next seven years, completely immersed in Balzac's life and works. Rodin rejected his first set of figure studies, naturalistic in inspiration, because he felt his attempts to recreate the writer's outward appearance would never succeed in conveying his genius. His Naked Balzac (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1971-142-1) of 1892 represented a shift as the artist moved in the direction of expressive dynamism. In the final version, Rodin simplified the figure to a monolithic form wrapped in the monk's robe that was Balzac's favorite working attire. He portrayed the face of a visionary full of creative force, "a genius who, in his small room, reconstructs piece by piece a whole society to make it vibrate tumultuously." Exhibited in 1898, Balzac provoked a violent scandal and was rejected by the commissioning body. Although Rodin considered it his most important work, and its revolutionary character was recognized by influential authors and artists, the sculptor himself experienced the rejection as a defeat. In 1939, twenty-two years after Rodin's death, a full-scale bronze of Balzac was finally placed at the crossing of the boulevards Montparnasse and Raspail in Paris.
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