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Balzac in a Monk's Habit (Balzac en robe de moine)

European Art

On View: Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Gallery, 4th Floor
In 1891, a Parisian literary society commissioned Rodin to make a monument to Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), one of the most controversial and influential authors in nineteenth-century France.

From 1891 until 1895, Rodin’s idea was to make a physical and spiritual likeness of Balzac. In 1896, however, Rodin decided to make a more symbolic monument, associating intellectual and artistic creativity with sexual activity, for which Balzac was equally well known. Thus, Rodin sculpted a Balzac who grasps his erect phallus beneath his robe, an act reflected in the overall phallic silhouette of the final monument.

Rodin completed the nine-foot-tall plaster model in 1898. Critics described it as a snowman, a side of beef, and a mistake. The society refused to accept it, and it was not cast in bronze until after Rodin’s death.
MEDIUM Bronze
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES ca. 1893; cast 1971
    DIMENSIONS 41 7/8 x 19 3/4 x 15 1/2in. (106.4 x 50.2 x 39.4cm) 133 lb. (60.33kg)
    MARKINGS Back, bottom edge of base: ".Georges Rudier./.Fondeur. Paris." Base, bottom edge, proper left: "© by Musée Rodin 1971"
    SIGNATURE Hem of robe, proper left: "A. Rodin No 1"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Gallery, 4th Floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 84.75.22
    EDITION Edition: 1/12
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation
    RECORD COMPLETENESS
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