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A "Little Eve" by Auguste Rodin

Published on , by Caroline Legrand
Auction on 15 November 2020 - 14:30 (CET) - 8, rue de Castries - 69002 Lyon

One of Rodin's most famous pieces, encapsulating the modernity intrinsic to his work, has reappeared in Lyon. Is it chance or fate?

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Ève, small model with square base and flat feet, bronze... A

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Ève, small model with square base and flat feet, bronze with shaded brown patina, sand casting produced by Alexis Rudier between 1905 and 1917, signed "A. Rodin" on the inside of the base, h. 75.3 cm.
Estimate: €400,000/600,000

Arms hugging her breast, Eve hides her face, seized with terrible shame and remorse after yielding to sin, and thereby condemning the men and women of future generations to a life of pain. But though her body is bent beneath the weight of her wrongdoing, her open nakedness is revealed, with the palpable presence of muscles, flesh and ample, voluptuous forms. Ève is one of the most complex of Rodin's works modeled from life - because through a strange and prescient stroke of fate, the model he chose, Maria Abruzzezzi, was pregnant at the time he was making the sculpture. The artist finally realized this after reworking the figure's hips and belly several times. Far from being disconcerted, he was filled with joy at the discovery, seeing it as a sign of destiny: "I certainly never imagined that I should use a woman with child as a model for my Eve. A happy fate led her to me, and it was extraordinarily helpful in characterizing the figure." But this final proof of naturalism was stopped short when the figure was abandoned. Éve was not exhibited with Adam at the 1881 Salon, and remained unfinished, like the entire Porte de l’Enfer (Gates of Hell) project. And yet the original couple were intended as the crowning point of this monumental work, commissioned by the Beaux-arts Department in 1879 to embellish the future Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the Palais d’Orsay in Paris. Rodin had proposed adding these two large figures on either side of the gate in 1881: a suggestion that was accepted – and handsomely paid, since the budget allocated to the artist was increased from 8,000 to 18,000 francs. While the large version of Ève was only presented at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-arts in 1899, when the artist finally agreed to exhibit some unfinished works in their raw state, Rodin decided in 1882 to produce a reduced version, which was shown in London for the first time in 1883.

Rodin and Lyon: An Intimate Story
This statuette, now more finely worked and sensual, was an out-and-out success and was cast several times by Alexis Rudier, including the figure here. One of the small models, with a square base and flat feet, comes from the family of Georges Brun, in Lyon. This city soon developed a special relationship with Rodin. The artist exhibited several times at the Salon of the Société Lyonnaise des Beaux-arts from 1904 to 1911, and in 1914 at the Lyon International Exhibition. In 1906, he presented an Eve there, as well as a Bust of Minerva: two pieces that immediately attracted attention. They were bought by the City of Lyon, through the intervention of Dr. Raymond Tripier, a celebrated pathologist and a friend of Rodin's; also, after he retired, chairman of the Committee at the Musée des Beaux-arts. From 1907, Lyon's residents could then admire a large version of Ève… which undoubtedly gave ideas to several collectors in the city. We all know that with Rodin, a woman was never very far away, and his frequent visits to Lyon clearly had something to do with his mistress and pupil, Jeanne Bardey. She organized an exhibition of his drawings at the City Library in 1912, and was his sole legatee for a time, until ousted by Rose Beuret, who became Rodin's official wife in 1917. But that's another story…

Sunday 15 November 2020 - 14:30 (CET) - Live
8, rue de Castries - 69002 Lyon
Conan Belleville Hôtel d'Ainay
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