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Pierre de Wiessant, Monumental Nude (Pierre de Wissant, nu monumental)

Auguste Rodin, Fonderie de Coubertin, Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuses

European Art

On View: Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor

In the wake of its humiliating defeat at the hands of Prussia in 1870, the French Third Republic sought to reinvigorate notions of heroism and citizenship. To this end, in 1884 the city council of Calais commissioned Rodin to create a monument to Eustache de Saint-Pierre. In 1347, while Calais was under siege by the English, Eustache and five other important citizens of the town had offered themselves as hostages, pleading for mercy for their long-suffering city.

In his first maquette of 1884, Rodin proposed a conventional monument, with his figures united as a group on a tall pedestal. By the following year, however, the six figures were placed on a low rectangular plinth, at the same level as the viewer. As Rodin later wrote: "I wanted to have my statues placed in front of the Calais city hall on the very paving of the square like a living rosary of suffering and sacrifice."

Rodin first made nude figure studies, which he then draped in wet canvas to model the sackcloth worn by the burghers when they surrendered. To create the expressive figures possible, he used the radical technique of combining studies of hands and feet from different figures. Creating the very antithesis of conventional heroic sculpture, Rodin here set out the terms of a modern, anti-monumental tradition that resonates to this day.

MEDIUM Bronze
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886, cast 1983
    DIMENSIONS 78 1/4 x 44 3/4 x 36 1/2 in. (198.8 x 113.7 x 92.7 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS Back of base, lower edge: "F*C" Back, lower edge: "© by Musée Rodin 1983"
    SIGNATURE Base, proper left: "A. Rodin"
    INSCRIPTIONS Base, proper left: "No I/IV"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 86.310
    STATE I/IV/12
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the B. Gerald Cantor Collection
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917). Pierre de Wiessant, Monumental Nude (Pierre de Wissant, nu monumental), 1886, cast 1983. Bronze, 78 1/4 x 44 3/4 x 36 1/2 in. (198.8 x 113.7 x 92.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the B. Gerald Cantor Collection, 86.310. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 86.310_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (87%)
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