1840 - 1917
Portrait of Lady Sackville
Height 28 inches [76cms]. Length 43 inches [109cms]. Depth 25 inches [63.5cms].
This is one of the two marble ‘Dream Portraits’ which Rodin made of Lady Sackville. The second is in the Musée Rodin, Paris.
Lady Victoria Sackville was a celebrated beauty and the daughter of the famous Spanish dancer Pepita [Josefa Duran]. She was the mother of Vita Sackville-West, who inspired the principal character in Virginia Wolf’s Orlando.
Rodin was infatuated by Sackville’s beauty. She describes sitting for him in these and other diary entries:
I was fairly décolleté and felt quite shy over it. He does my two profiles, and back and full face. It is four times more work than a portrait.
And a week later:
I had to sit again for my shoulders and back and Rodin keeps muttering to himself,
‘Ah, comme c’est beau. Quelles belles épaules. Comme c’est chaud de couleurs.’
Lady Sackville first posed for Rodin around November 1913. And her sessions with the artist continued into December that year. By February 1914, Rodin had executed at least four or five studies, presumably in clay, after his subject. By June 27th of that year, Lady Sackville had written to Rodin asking him to please begin the marble sculpture from the clay portrait he had made. It was not until September 1916 that she received word from Rodin that the marble bust would be completed in October. And not until the following year that Rodin’s practitioner Roussaud indicated that the marble was finished.
This work has a particular historical importance in being probably the very last marble sculpture to be executed by Rodin.
Mask of Hanako
In 1908, Rodin was introduced by the music hall actress Loie Fuller to the Japanese dancer Ohta Hisa [1868-1945] famously known as Hanako.
Hanako was the only oriental subject he sculpted. And according to Albert Elsen, the foremost Rodin scholar of his day, Rodin made more sculptures of Hanako than of any other sitter.
For him, she represented a symbol of oriental beauty and mystery. A quality that must both have captivated and, at first, eluded him, given the number of sculptures he made of her. Indeed as turned, this sculpture reveals more than one expression.
It is interesting to compare the surface of this sculpture with that of Rodin's life-size' Iris' in the Tate Gallery. The squares left by the plaster mould remain on each. And 'both noses' are rubbed. The surface casting and definition appear finer on the Hanako. And this, together with the fact that the 'Tate Iris' was cast by the same foundry 'Alexis Rudier' before 1913, make it likely the Hanako was also cast in Rodin's lifetime.
1840 - 1917
The Three Shades 1908
Pen and ink; 30.3 x 42.7 cms; 12 x 16 7/8 inches. signed and inscribed:
Dessin fait pour Monsieur Arthur Mayer et sa fille Jacqueline Meyer et en homage d’admiration au grand artiste Gustave Doré trop oublié, Auguste Rodin Juin 1908’.
This wonderful drawing with its moving tribute to Gustave Doré shows the three towering figures in Rodin’s major sculpture The Gates of Hell looking down upon the wreathing ferment of damned souls. The drawing was inserted as the frontispiece of Arthur Mayer’s copy of his publication of Doré’s illustrations for Dante’s Inferno. The three figures, in the drawing and sculpture, are reproduced below.
The Gates of Hell: What They are About and Something of Their History is a key text by the great Rodin scholar Albert Elsen who writes:
‘The crucial connection he [Rodin] discovered between subjects from the past and present was suffering: the eternal and internal punishment inflicted by unsatisfied
passions……Rodin’s compassionate commentary on the moral cost to society of the decline of orthodox religion and the addiction to materialistic values.’
Rodin told a writer:
I lived a whole year with Dante, drawing the eight circles of his Hell. At the end of that year, I saw that while my drawings rendered my vision of Dante, they were not close enough to reality. And I began all over again, after nature, working with my models. I abandoned my drawings from Dante.
What he told Truman Bartlett [the American sculptor] however about how he formed ‘The Gates of Hell’ shows an awareness of his greatest gift:
I followed my imagination, my own sense of arrangement, movement and composition.
‘The Gates of Hell’ was only cast after Rodin’s death in 1917.
'Gates of Hell' Kunsthaus, Zurich
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