What is up with this statue?
This is Orpheus, by Auguste Rodin. It shows a moment in the story of Orpheus, an amazingly gifted musician and singer. You'll see he's holding his lyre, a stringed instrument.
When his wife Eurydice died, he went down to the underworld and convinced the gods of the underworld by playing and singing for them to release her and send her back to the living world. But he had to promise not to look back as he and Eurydice went back up to the land of the living. He forgot, and looked back to check on Eurydice thus losing her to the underworld again, permanently.
Can I touch it?
Unfortunately, Rodin's Orpheus can't be touched (nor can anything else in the galleries!) but I can understand how all the varied textures making touching a temptation.
Rodin's use of surfaces in his bronze sculptures is so distinctive. That roughness was a very unusual approach at the time, when fine art sculpture was expected to look smooth and polished.
Is this sculpture broken or was this how the artist wanted the hand at the top to look? What does the hand mean?
It's meant to be that way! Rodin deliberately made many of his works to look rough and unfinished. He believed it gave his works a greater emotional impact as if you could feel the sculpture emerging from the raw material. It also differentiated his sculpture from the highly finished academic work of his contemporaries. “The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation,” Rodin said. As for the hand, this is part of the story of Orpheus. Orpheus was an amazingly gifted musician and singer. You might see that he's holding his lyre, a stringed instrument.
When his wife Eurydice died, he went down to the underworld and convinced the gods of the underworld by playing and singing for them to release her and send her back to the living world. But he had to promise not to look back as he and Eurydice went back up to the land of the living. He forgot, and looked back to check on Eurydice, thus losing her to the underworld again, permanently. That hand is all we see of Eurydice here.
How did Rodin make these sculptures?
Rodin used the "sand casting" method. He would have created his intended form in clay, then built a mould around it using a mixture of special sand, salt, and a binding agent. When the mould was ready, he would remove the clay from the center and then pour liquid bronze into the mould. Unlike other bronze casting techniques available at the time, sand casting allows for the creation of multiples.
Why do you have so many Rodin sculptures?
We received many of the Rodin works currently on view as a gift from the Cantor Foundation in 1980s. The Cantor Foundation is interested creating opportunities to further explore the works of Rodin and his contemporaries.
When was bronze used to make sculptures such as this one
This sculpture was designed in 1908 and this edition was cast in 1980. People have been making bronze sculptures since ancient times! There is a video in the back that shows how bronze sculptures are made.
Why was this statue cast in 1980 when the creation was in 1908?
That's a common question! Rodin designed the sculpture in 1908, but the mold still exists. He left everything in his studio to the French government upon his death, the Musée Rodin was created which houses many of his works and all of the molds that were in his possession.
With the permission of that museum and the French government, casts of Rodin's sculptures can still be made.