This work will be included in the forthcoming Auguste Rodin catalogue critique de l'oeuvre sculpté currently being prepared by the comité Rodin at Galerie Brame et Lorenceau under the direction of Jérôme Le Blay under the archives number 2010-3190B.
L'âge d'airain was originally conceived in 1877 and is widely considered Auguste Rodin's first great work, ranking alongside his later masterpieces such as the Porte de l'Enfer, the Penseur and Le baiser. It is a reflection of the importance of this motif in Rodin's work that casts of it are held by museums throughout the world; Alexis Rudier casts such as the present lot feature in the collections of the Musée Rodin, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons, the Albright-Knowx Gallery, Buffalo and the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm and Philadelphia's Rodin Museum, amongst others.
When Rodin first exhibited a bronze and a plaster version of L'âge d'airain in 1877, he caused a scandal: the new scrutiny of reality that he brought to the field of sculpture was so extreme, the sense of modelling so observed, that he was accused of casting a live person. His anticipated breakthrough was to some extent delayed by these accusations, despite his submitting photographs of his model, the young soldier Auguste Neyt, as proof of his own work. Neyt was an apt model for L'âge d'airain, which took its name from the Age of Bronze mentioned by Hesiod as peopled with war-like men. This was a theme that was particularly keenly felt in France in the wake of its invasion by Prussia seven years earlier.
Amongst those who saw the sculpture, Rodin found many defenders among the avant garde, later recalling that L'âge d'airain was 'condemned by the professors, while the students, connoisseurs and independent spirits loved it. From that time on the artist was surrounded by friends' (Rodin, quoted in F.V. Grunfeld, Rodin: A Biography, New York, 1998, pp. 103-04). The novel vitality of this figure of an all-too-believably human model rather than the idealised figures favoured by many academic sculptors was combined with Rodin's formidable talents to astounding effect, and paved the way for his reputation, established only a few years later, as the only rival to Michelangelo. In fact, while Michelangelo was an influence on him, as is clear even in the contrapposto evident in this work, during a trip to Italy the previous year, Rodin had also been struck by the Renaissance masters of bronze, and in particular Donatello.
Rodin had originally hoped that exhibiting L'âge d'airain might lead to a commission from the French state. He was first disappointed, yet three years later, encouraged by a letter of support from a group of fellow sculptors who appreciated the importance of Rodin's work, Edmond Turquet acquired the plaster and requested a bronze cast. It was Turquet, in his authority as Undersecretary of State for Fine Arts, who then commissioned the Porte de l'Enfer, marking a new chapter in the sculptor's career and forging his reputation as the most prominent sculptor of his generation.
Please note this work is also stamped with the signature 'A. Rodin' (on the inside of the base)
PROPERTY FROM THE STIFTUNG FÜR KREBS - UND SCHARLACHFORSCHUNG
Josef Karl Paul Otto Krebs was born in Wiesbaden on 23 March 1873. After finishing his university studies, he became an extremely successful entrepreneur by developing his steam boiler company, Strebel, into a world-wide business. Economic success enabled Krebs to build up one of the great private art collections in Germany before the Second World War - a collection that was indeed private in the sense that it remained largely hidden from the public, to be enjoyed by Krebs and his guests during visits to his country house in Holzdorf, near Weimar in Thuringia.
Otto Krebs the art collector emerges as a man of great taste, assembling a group of outstanding works of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the 1920s and 1930s. Fascinatingly, Krebs seems to have acted without advisers; he made his purchases through the leading art dealers of his time, M. Goldschmidt in Frankfurt (close to his business in Mannheim and his main residence in Heidelberg) as well as Paul Cassirer, Alfred Flechtheim and Justin Thannhauser in Berlin or the Galerie Arnold in Dresden. Krebs seems to have made his main purchases up until about 1930; later acquisitions or sales were made to improve the quality of the collection. His focus on French works of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had become typical for grand-bourgeois collecting in Germany since the late 19th century, when art collectors like Otto Gerstenberg and Eduard Arnhold began to bring their outstanding picture galleries together.
From the mid-1930s, the Krebs collection was stored in a strong-room in Holzdorf; it remained there throughout the war and after the collector's death in 1941. For the integrity of the art collection itself, its locality was decisive: when US troops withdrew from Thuringia in the summer of 1945, Holzdorf became one of the headquarters for the Soviet Military Administration. With the exception of the works included in these sales, the Krebs collection was subsequently transferred to the then Soviet Union. It has remained at the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg ever since and was first shown publicly in 1995, when the Hermitage produced the groundbreaking exhibition 'Hidden Treasures Revealed'.
The present work and other lots from the Krebs collection offered in the Impressionist and Modern Day sale (24 June 2010) are sold to benefit the Stiftung für Krebs - und Scharlachforschung, a foundation involved in cancer and scarlet fever research. As scarlet fever no longer poses a medical problem, cancer research remains the focus of the foundation's work. All proceeds from the foundation's capital benefit ongoing research at Heidelberg University, as will the proceeds from this sale.
Signed 'Rodin' (on the top of the base); with the foundry mark 'ALEXIS RUDIER Fondeur - PARIS' (on the back of the base)
Auguste Rodin , 19th Century, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, figure, bronze, France, Impressionist, figures
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
Height: 71 1/8 in. (180.5 cm.)
C. Scheffler, Die europäische Kunst im neunzehnten Jahrhundert. Malerei und Plastik, vol. II, Berlin, 1927, p. 291 (another cast illustrated).
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1929, no. 18 (another cast illustrated pp. 30-31).
C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1962 (other casts illustrated pp. 54-55).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963 (another cast illustrated p. 20). H. Read, Geschichte der modernen Plastik, Munich, 1966, p. 12 (another cast illustrated pl. 2).
A.T. Spear, Rodin Sculpture in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1967, no. VII, p. 94 (another cast illustrated pl. 56).
I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 85 (other casts illustrated pls. 6-7).
R. Descharnes & J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Paris, 1967 (another cast illustrated p. 53).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, London, 1974, pp. 21-25 (another cast illustrated p. 20).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, no. 64 (other casts illustrated pp. 343-345).
A.E. Elsen, In Rodin's Studio, New York, 1980 (plaster casts illustrated figs. 2 and 5).
C. Goldscheider, Auguste Rodin, catalogue de l'oeuvre sculpté, vol. I, Paris, 1989, no. 95b (another cast illustrated p. 117).
R. Crone & S. Salzmann, Rodin, Eros and Creativity, Munich, 1992, p. 9 (plaster cast illustrated).
A. Pingeot, 'Rodin au musée du Luxembourg', in La Revue du musée d'Orsay, no. 11, Autumn 2000, pp. 64-65 and 74.
R. Butler, Auguste Rodin, in R. Butler, S. Lindsay Glover et. al (eds.), European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century: The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Washington D.C. and New York, 2001, pp. 312-317.
F.C. Brader, 'Meisterwerke im Verborgenen. Die Sammlung Otto Krebs', in A. Pophanken & F. Billeter (eds.), Die Moderne und ihre Sammler. Franz/uosische Kunst in deutschem Privatbesitz vom Kaiserreich zur Weimarer Republik, vol. 3, Berlin, 2001, pp. 299 and 309.
A.E. Elsen (ed.), Rodin's Art: The Rodin Collection of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, nos. 1-3.
B. Maaz (ed.), Nationalgalerie Berlin, Bestandskatalog der Skulpturen, Das XIX. Jahrhundert, vol. II, Berlin, 2006, no. 1454, p. 912 (illustrated p. 913).
A. Beloubek-Hammer, Die schönen Gestalten der besseren Zukunft, vol. I, Cologne, 2007, p. 71 (illustrated).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, vol. I, Paris, 2007 (other casts illustrated pp. 121-128, incorrectly described as 'no foundry mark').
Dr. Otto Krebs, Mannheim and Holzdorf bei Weimar, and thence by descent.
Nationalised under the Soviet Military Administration in Thuringia after 8 May 1945.
Transferred as state property by the Staatliche Kunstkommission to the administration of the Nationalgalerie, East Berlin, in 1952.
Skulpturensammlung, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, on loan from the above from 1959.
Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, from 1990.
Restituted to the Stiftung f/uur Krebs und Scharlachforschung on 30 April 2008.