The Rodin Compilation Portfolio contains two pages with 88 images compiled from the
LA County Museum of Art and Norton Simon Museum sections plus this Overview Index.
The pages display the Burghers of Calais & Studies; and the Thinker and other Figures.

Most images in the Rodin Compilation section are 1500-1600 pixels in the long direction.

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Rodin Compilation Index

Rodin Compilation 1:                         Rodin Compilation 2:

       Burghers of Calais                  The Thinker and other Figures
        and Figure Studies                                                                      

François-Auguste-René Rodin is generally considered to be the progenitor of modern sculpture. Rejected from the École des Beaux-Arts, he developed a naturalistic approach focused on character and emotion, and detested the "academic" rules of the Academy. His first full-scale work, The Age of Bronze, which was executed while the artist was working in Brussels after returning from two months in Italy where he studied Michelangelo and Donatello, was astoundingly realistic and prompted accusations of surmoulage (taking a cast from a living model). He was eventually exonerated by a committee of sculptors after photographs of the model proved his case. His next male nude, St. John the Baptist Preaching, was made larger than life to avoid a repeat of the charge. Controversy continued to follow Rodin throughout his career, primarily because his work clashed with traditional figure sculptures, which were decorative, thematic, and generally composed to a formula. Rodin departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, modeling the body with realism. He was an incredibly prolific artist who created several thousand busts, figures, sculptural fragments and reliefs over a period of more than five decades.


Rodin Burghers of Calais X2656

Burghers of Calais, Auguste Rodin, 1889 (cast 1968), French, bronze

The Burghers of Calais (Les Monument aux Bourgeois de Calais) is one of the most famous sculptures executed by Auguste Rodin. It was commissioned by the City of Calais in 1885 as a monument of an incident in 1347 during the Hundred Years War. The town council of the port city of Calais wanted to pay tribute to the six Burghers who had risked their lives to save the citizens of Calais after the 11 month siege of King Edward III of England, which had reduced the city to the brink of starvation and thirst.

To save the population Edward required six of the leading citizens to present themselves as hostages in plain garments with nooses around their necks, bearing the keys to the city and citadel. Edward intended to kill the Burghers, but according to the medieval writer Jean Froissart, his pregnant wife Philippa of Hainault intervened, convincing Edward to spare them claiming that their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child. Rodin focused on all six Burghers rather than just the leading citizen, Eustache de Saint-Pierre, as had the previous artists and as the city council originally intended. Rodin accorded each of the six Burghers equal status by placing them all at the same height, and faced them in different directions to require the viewer to circumnavigate the sculpture to be able to appreciate his work in its entirety.


Rodin Burghers of Calais X2657


Rodin Burghers of Calais X2660

In contravention to the established rules of the École des Beaux-Arts, Rodin’s Burghers of Calais challenged tradition in every possible way. Rather than portraying Eustache Saint-Pierre as a heroic figure atop a pyramidal composition on a pedestal, with (or without) the other five Burghers in reduced positions below him, Rodin chose to portray the six figures in a naturalistic manner, standing on the same level on a low base, occupying the space of the viewer and enhancing the emotional impact.

The composition of the Burghers of Calais reconciles the individuality of each figure with the unity of the whole. "Each figure is allotted the amount of space he physically and psychologically needs and no more." To study the gestures of each figure, the viewer must move around the burghers counterclockwise to best see their movement and appreciate the relationship of each to the other and to the whole. The features and proportions are distorted to intensify the expressiveness of the figures struggling with their conflicting thoughts of fear, indecision, anguish, and nobility. Note the disproportionate size of the hands and feet.


Rodin Jean de Fiennes 7733


Rodin Jean d'Aire 0785

Jean de Fiennes, Vetu (dressed), Auguste Rodin, 1884-95, French, bronze, Edition of IV, Cast No. I

Jeanne de Fiennes was the youngest of the Burghers, and Rodin modeled his figure with arms outspread and mouth open, as if he were questioning his decision to sacrifice himself for the safety of the people of Calais. Jean de Fiennes went through the most changes of any of the figures from the first to the second maquettes and through the studies to the Grand Model. The shape of the head, the face and facial expression, the position of the head, body, arms and legs, hands and feet all changed through several studies to the second maquette, when the general position and stance were defined but everything else was still to be refined. The final Grand Model had long wavy hair, lighter drapery with vertical folds revealing the feet, and an expression with lips parted and brow furrowed, that along with the position of the hands gives the figure a doubting disposition as he looks back towards Calais, which he may never see again.

Jean d'Aire, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze, modelled 1886, this cast 1972 (Musée Rodin 6/12)

The Grand Model for Jean d'Aire, the second of the Burghers to volunteer to present the keys to the City and Citadel of Calais to King Edward III after the 11 month siege in 1347 during the Hundred Years War. He is depicted holding the Key, with his head held high looking straight ahead with a defiant attitude. His hands, feet and the key are exaggerated and enlarged, and he is portrayed barefoot, dressed in sackcloth and wearing a noose around his neck. He is the most determined of the Burghers, with his feet planted firmly on the ground, his arms straight, and his torso rigid and motionless.


Rodin Jean de Fiennes HS7371

The combination of the theatrical gestures and his facial expression masterfully impart the doubt which
Jean de Fiennes must have felt when departing Calais towards his uncertain fate at the hands of Edward III.


Rodin Pierre de Wissant dressed 3891


Rodin Pierre de Wissant nude 3366

Pierre de Wissant, Vetu (dressed), Auguste Rodin, 1884-95, French, bronze, Edition of IV, Cast No. I
Pierre de Wissant, Nude, Auguste Rodin, 1884-95, French, bronze, Edition of IV, Cast No. II

A comparison of the dressed and nude bronze studies for Pierre de Wissant, showing the head, neck, right arm and hand. Note the different tilt of the head (slightly further back and canted toward the right shoulder on the nude), the longer neck on the nude with smoother and more prominent rendering of the tendons, and the different tilt of the wrist and rotation of the hand.


Rodin Monumental Head Jean d'Aire 0801


Rodin Monumental Head Jean d'Aire 0804

Monumental Head of Jean d'Aire, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze
modelled 1884-86, enlarged 1909-10, this cast 1971 (Musée Rodin 2/12)

Jean d'Aire was the second burgher to volunteer after Eustache de St. Pierre. According to the medieval writer Jean Froissart, he was a "greatly respected and wealthy citizen, who had two beautiful  daughters". Rodin modeled him as an older man, with his eyes betraying sadness, yet with his firmly turned-down mouth and forceful jaw exposing an angry strength. The Calais Municipal Council was was not pleased with the apparent dejection of the figures, as they expected the typically heroic monumental sculpture of the period, although Rodin had deliberately labored over the features of the figures in his first  maquette which he presented to the Council and from which he was given the commission.


Rodin Monumental Head Pierre de Wissant 3990


Rodin Monumental Head Pierre de Wissant 4324

Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze
modelled 1884-1885, enlarged 1909, this cast 1971 (Musée Rodin 3/12)

Pierre de Wissant (or Wiessant depending on the source) was the second youngest and followed his older brother Jacques, who was the third Burgher to volunteer. This is the final form of the Type A head used for the final figure, looking down over his right shoulder, portrayed as an older youth with short hair, his brow knitted tightly, his eyes half shut and his mouth parted. Rodin did many studies to explore the character and pose of each burgher before deciding on the details of the final monument. In his head studies, he focused on depth of emotion as reflected in their faces. The Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant is an enlarged version of the final head study in which Rodin depicted a youth in the face of death.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Rodin Compilation 1 page.


Rodin The Thinker 3840

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin, 1880 and 1902, French, bronze, Edition of 12, Cast No. 11

When conceived in 1880 in its original size (approximately 28 inches) as the crowning element of The Gates of Hell, seated on the tympanum, The Thinker was entitled The Poet. He represented Dante, the author of the Divine Comedy which had inspired The Gates of Hell, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell while meditating on his work. The pose of this figure is based on Carpeaux’s Ugolino and the seated portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici carved by Michelangelo.

While remaining in place on the monumental Gates of Hell, The Thinker was exhibited individually in 1888 and thus became an independent work.  Enlarged in 1902, its monumental version proved even more popular and has become one of the most celebrated sculptures ever known. Numerous casts exist worldwide, cast in multiple versions at different sizes.


Rodin The Thinker X2644


Rodin The Thinker 3849

Designed to be seen from below, The Thinker is displayed on a fairly tall plinth. Rodin's original
28 inch model was traced using an enlarging and reducing pantograph called the Collas machine,
invented in 1836 by the French engineer Achille Collas, then further modified and with a technique
that was developed by Rodin’s assistant Henri Lebosse. Using the Lebosse process, the original
model was "traced" onto another block of clay, and in the process, enlarged to monumental size.
After its first exhibition, a public petition was circulated to have the colossal sculpture purchased
for donation to the people of France. It was cast and placed outside of the Pantheon in Paris.


Rodin The Shade 4467


Rodin The Shade 4468

The Shade, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze
modelled 1880, enlarged 1901, this cast 1969 (Musée Rodin 6/12)

Rodin's The Shade is a singular sculpture which was created as a trio of identical figures for the pinnacle of the Gates of Hell. Dante, in the Inferno, describes three shades who danced in a circle as they told of their woe in Hades. Rodin's Three Shades stand at the center of the top lintel of the Gates of Hell, crowning the tympanum just above The Thinker. The downward gesture of their left arms and their heads conveys despair as it summons the viewer to gaze upon the Gates. Each shade in The Three Shades is the same figure, not a different sculpture; each is repeated and juxtaposed to form a new composition. Their formal history derives from Rodin's Adam, but the Shades show less tension and greater coordination of movement. The sculpture of the Three Shades at the original size intended for the Gates did not have hands. The enlarged version added the hands and reveals the Michelangelesque muscularity Rodin so admired in Italian Renaissance sculpture.


Rodin Orpheus 8148

Orpheus, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze
modelled 1890-1900, this cast 1969 (Musée Rodin 6/12)

This sculpture, with its intense torsion and strain, its mixture of exaltation and despair, reflects the complexity of the theme and Rodin's willingness to have his works express the internal conflict and ambiguity of actual experience, even when dealing with a mythological theme. Orpheus was a legendary musician and poet in ancient Greek mythology who had the ability to charm all living things, gods and other deities, and even stones with his music. He perfected the lyre, and was said to be able to coax the trees and rocks to dance with his music. One of the famous stories of Orpheus is his journey to Hell to save his wife Eurydice.

While walking among her people in tall grass at her wedding, Eurydice was set upon by a satyr, and in her efforts to escape, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (the only person ever to do so). They agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

Rodin’s Orpheus started as part of his enormous project The Gates of Hell. The sculpture depicts the tragic moment when he loses Eurydice. Rodin did several versions of this sculpture with and without Eurydice. This is the 1892 version without Eurydice. The figure of Orpheus is relatively smooth and his gestures are theatrical but realistic, but his lyre is a formless structure and the tree against which he leans is roughly modeled, the three radically different elements creating a palpable tension. Rodin stated that he intentionally left the tree and the lyre unfinished to give his sculpture “atmosphere”.


Rodin Monument to Balzac 3828


Rodin Monument to Balzac 7738

Monument to Balzac, Auguste Rodin, 1897, French, bronze, Edition of 12, Cast No. 8

The most controversial of Rodin’s sculptures, which caused a public scandal that literally divided France.

Honoré de Balzac, the vastly influential French author of the series of 91 stories and novels entitled The Human Comedy, died in 1850, but it was not until 1891 that Rodin was commissioned by the Société des Gens de Lettres de France to sculpt the monument, on the recommendation of the new president Émile Zola. Rodin immersed himself in the study of Balzac, reading his works, studying photographs and lithographs, sculptures, paintings and drawings of the author, and even tracked down his tailor and had a pair of pants and a waistcoat made to Balzac's measurements. Rodin created over 50 studies simultaneously, most of them being heads, with some headless bodies, and a number of complete figures in various dressed and undressed states. His Balzac in Dominican Robe created the fundamental version of the clothing Rodin would use for the final figure. The Final Study joined the Naked Balzac (with altered arm positions) with the Monumental Head and a drastic reworking of the monk's garb of Balzac in Dominican Robe, with smoother drapery and hanging sleeves leading up to the massive head.


Rodin Jules Bastien-Lepage 3017


Rodin Jules Bastien-Lepage 3040

Jules Bastien-Lepage, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze
modelled 1887, this cast 1987 (Musée Rodin 2/8)

This sculpture of the naturalist painter Jules Bastien-Lepage was made for the monument commemorating the artist which stands in his native town of Damvillers, near Verdun in the Meuse. Jules Bastien-Lepage, who died of cancer at the age of 36, dedicated his art to the representation of peasant life and, even before the Impressionists, was an outspoken enthusiast of plein air painting. The life-sized version of the final monument was dedicated in 1889, five years after the artist's premature death. It was the first time Rodin had been commissioned to create a monument for a public space, and the first time he’d done a work that constituted a posthumous homage for someone that he had known personally. In his image of Bastien-Lepage, Rodin placed the figure standing on uneven ground, leaning forward with a short cape covering his shoulders, bracing himself as if against a wind.


Rodin Fallen Caryatid with Urn 3206


Rodin Mask of Hanako 3218

Fallen Caryatid with Urn, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze,
modelled 1883, this cast 1967 (Musée Rodin 5/12)

The ancient Greeks considered caryatids to be priestesses (literally, “Maidens of Karyai”, an ancient town of the Peloponnese peninsula with a famous temple to Artemis, who carried baskets of live reeds on their heads during their ecstatic dance to Artemis), and draped versions of caryatids were used as architectural props, supporting columns in the form of upright women. Caryatids were revived in the Renaissance and used in architecture and decorative arts. Unlike these upright caryatids, Rodin’s are compressed figures collapsing under their burdens. Designed for the Gates of Hell (shown further up on this page), the two caryatids (Fallen Caryatid with Stone and Fallen Caryatid with Urn) are derived from Dante’s description in the Purgatorio of frightened souls expiating their sins by carrying huge burdens on their backs. The Urn is associated with tomb ornamentation and is a symbol of bereavement. Both of Rodin's Fallen Caryatids were considered by Rodin and his friends to be among his very best compositions, and the Fallen Caryatid with Stone was the first figure from the Gates of Hell to be reworked in marble and exhibited as a free-standing work of art. There are numerous versions of each, in bronze, marble and limestone.

Monumental Mask of Hanako, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze,
modelled 1907-1908, this cast 1972 (Musée Rodin 2/12)

Hanako was the stage name of the Japanese actress and dancer Ohta Hisa, who was trained as a geisha and joined the American dancer Loïe Fuller as a mime in her company in Paris in 1904. Rodin met Hanako in 1906 and was impressed with her wide range of Kabuki-inspired expressions. She posed for Rodin between 1907 and 1911, and he produced more studies of Hanako than any other model. She could hold difficult poses for very long periods of time. There are 53 busts, heads and masks of Hanako in the Musée Rodin. The Mask of Hanako is a formal but psychologically expressive head which, along with the other heads in the series, was considered unprecedented in either Western or Eastern sculpture as a revelation of the changes in expression which can be enacted on one woman's face. Rodin called this version Mask of the Anguish of Death, and it was a reprise of a death scene Rodin had seen Hanako perform in 1906.


Rodin Paolo and Francesca 3199

Paolo and Francesca, Auguste Rodin, France, bronze
modelled 1887-1889, this cast 1972 (Musée Rodin 1/12)

Dante, in the Inferno, meets Paolo Malatesta and Francesca de Rimini. Francesca explained that their love began innocently while they were “reading about Lancelot and how love seized upon him... But there was one passage that was our ruin. When we read how this tender lover kissed a smile on the adored mouth, he who shall never leave me tremblingly kissed me on the mouth.” The lovers were discovered by Francesca’s husband, who murdered them both. Paolo and Francesca were consigned to the Circle of Carnal Sinners for their adultery. The pathos of this story inspired Rodin to incorporate it in the Gates of Hell, and he gave it a prominent position on the lower left door below Ugolino and His Sons. The story of Paolo and Francesca also inspired The Kiss, but Rodin did not include that piece in the Gates.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Rodin Compilation 2 page.