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Couple Saphique (Sapphic Couple)
Signed in graphite at the bottom left: A.R.
Inscribed on the verso on the board: with stencil, black ink: A.Rodin / Drawing / Frame no 153; annotated with brush: a picture framer label 106; Moirinat
Graphite on wove paper mounted to board
Dimensions: 9 1/2 x 12 1/2" (24.1 x 31.8 cm)
Conceived and drawn between 1898-1900
Auguste Rodin’s erotic drawings occupy a large part of his production from 1890 until the early years of the 20th century. As the artist himself seldom commercialised or gifted such drawings, the Musée Rodin holds the majority of them in its collection of works on paper.
The composition of the present piece is centred around the sex of the figure on the left, which is placed in the middle of the sheet. Rodin likely reused previous nude studies in order to craft this particular drawing. This is evident if one considers the synthetic use of lines to define the figures’ contours. These are lightly and finely drawn, forcing the viewer to get closer to the paper in order to appreciate the work’s subject.
Rodin himself felt this particular work stood out among his production of erotic drawings. In fact, the piece had been selected to take part of the Pavillon de l’Alma exhibition of 1900 –the first major exhibition of Rodin’s drawings in France, organised by the artist himself in occasion on the Exposition Universelle, Paris. The drawing shares several features with other works on display at the Pavillion, namely it is glued on a board support upon which the words ‘A. RODIN / Dessin’ and the identification number ‘Cadre No 153’ were printed, and upon which a number (106) was inscribed by hand. It also carried on the back the Moirinat stamp, who were involved with the framing of all drawings for the exhibition.
Despite the evidence, the drawing does not feauture in the booklet describing in detail the hanging order of the drawings in the exhibition. It is likely that Rodin changed his mind about displaying this particular piece before the exhibition opened, conscious of the controversial response this might have caused in the prudish audience of the World Fair.
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