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Main 20 (Hand 20), Petit Modèle
Signed A. Rodin
Inscribed G. Rudier Fond. Paris.
Bronze with a dark greeen patina, with light green and brown highlights
Height: 2 2/16" (5.4 cm)
Conceived between 1890 and 1908 and cast in 1966. The Comite Rodin estimates 11 examples were cast in total
Rodin sculpted hands more than he did any other part of the body. He used them to convey powerful emotions, both on their own and when grouped with other sculptures. Gustave Kahn, a contemporary, described him as “the sculptor of hands, of furious, clenched, angered, damned hands.” In 1912 Rodin put on an exhibition solely made up of hands. He defended himself against the barrage of criticism by saying:
“Have not the public and critics who serve the public reproached me enough for exhibiting simple parts of the human body?... Can they not imagine that an artist must apply himself to giving as much expression to a hand or a torso as to a face and that it was logical for an artist to exhibit an arm rather than a bust arbitrarily deprived by tradition of arms, legs, and abdomen? Expression and proportion, the ends are there. The means are modeling... It is by modeling that the flesh lives, vibrates, struggles and suffers.”
Rodin is thought to have held this interest since the beginning of his sculpting career. Certainly, when he was studying at the Petite École in the 1850s, he would have been taught to study figural parts. His habit of displaying them in their own right seems to have always been present, perhaps encouraged by Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic studies of hands in motion that were popular in the 1880s. Rodin is attested to have received a copy of Muybridge’s publications in 1887.
Photographs of the single hands in Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion.
Rodin would often group these studies into new dialogues, as exemplified by The Hand of God and The Hand of the Devil, 1903, The Cathedral, 1908, and The Secret, 1910. The essential concept was that Rodin believed his talent was God-given and owed through his hands. His belief in God as creator of man was then symbolized in his sculpture starting with hands in the process of creation and then expressing different emotions.
A. Rodin, The Cathedral (Musée Rodin), otherwise known as The Arch of Alliance, a study he made in 1908, which connected two hands together in a bridge like appearance.
The great Rodin authority Albert Elsen commented, “No previous sculptor is known to have made as many studies of the hand, considering them not only in connection with arms, but self sufficient as works of art, to be exhibited and sold.”
A. Rodin, The Hand of God (Musée Rodin), modeled c. 1896 – photo credits: Christian Baraja
Museums that hold examples of Rodin’s hands in their permanent collections include e Metropolitan Museum, New York, e Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, The Fogg Art Museum, Boston and Musée Rodin, Paris.
- Height (cm):
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