Musée Rodin

François-Auguste-René Rodin
November 12, 1840 – November 17, 1917

Sculpturally, Rodin possessed a unique ability to model a complex, turbulent, deeply pocketed surface in clay. Many of his most notable sculptures were roundly criticized during his lifetime. They clashed with the predominant figure sculpture tradition, in which works were decorative, formulaic, or highly thematic. Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, modeled the human body with realism, and celebrated individual character and physicality. Rodin was sensitive to the controversy surrounding his work, but refused to change his style. Successive works brought increasing favor from the government and the artistic community. — Wikipedia

The Musée Rodin is another one of those places that I visit each time I am in Paris. I don’t know if it is that I feel connected to Rodin, or to the building, or his work, or all of the above. When I visit the museum, I have a distinct feeling that I am visiting an artist’s home and studio, and while it is a formal museum, it has the feeling of being a home and Rodin’s work fits in the environment. I think many people who visit the museum feel that way, as you’ll find people taking advantage of the chairs and sketching from the various works placed around the rooms.

Musée Rodin
79, rue de Varenne
75007 Paris

Getting There:
Métro: Varenne (ligne 13) ou Invalides (ligne 13, ligne 8)
R.E.R: Invalides (ligne C)
Bus: 69, 82, 87, 92
Vélib’: 9, Bd des Invalides
Stationnement: Bd des Invalides

Out Of The Archives:
Michelangelo At The Louvre

The Louvre is not a place one would instinctively visit to see work by the famous Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo Buonarotti. He does have work in major museums around the world, but a large portion of his portfolio is still in Italy, in and around Tuscany and Rome.

Included in the vast sculpture collection of The Louvre are two of his SlavesThe Rebellious Slave and The Dying Slave (shown above). Sculpted between 1513 and 1515, these sculptures were originally meant for the tomb of Pope Julius II. Note that Pope Julius II was the pope that dictated Michelangelo to work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. One of Michelangelo’s lifelong projects was the tomb of Pope Julius, which went through many design changes while the Pope was alive. When Pope Julius died in 1515, the plans for the tomb were changed and simplified yet again and the already carved Slaves then became Michelangelo’s to keep or do with as he pleased.

When Michelangelo fell ill in 1544 and again in 1545, he stayed at the Strozzi palace in Rome. His good friend Luigi del Riccio was an agent for Roberto Strozzi, and it was with del Riccio that Michelangelo lived while he took care of him. Michelangelo gave The Dying Slave and The Rebellious Slave to del Riccio in a return of the favor for his care. In 1550, a few years after del Riccio’s death, these two Slaves were sent to France by Strozzi and presented to Henri II. They first occupied two niches at the Château d’Ecouen before Cardinal de Richelieu took them to his château in Poitou. The other four Slaves in the series are in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.

Michelangelo was an enigmatic figure not only in the art world of his time, but he is today as well. He was known for his cranky attitude, but who wouldn’t be when one’s living is dependent not only on the whims and desires of the Pope but also on the heaviness of the Pope’s purse? While Michelangelo thought of himself as a sculptor, and thought of sculpting the human form as one of the highest of the arts, prior to creating The Slaves he had spent four years of his life in the lesser art of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Even though his attitude was at times crusty, he had a deep feeling of sensuality about him, which is evident not only in The Dying Slave, but in the entire Slave series.

Were the Slaves unfinished for technical reasons? The grain of the marble on the Rebellious Slave’s face and the thinness of the base beneath the figures’ lower feet no doubt explain that the works were abandoned. However, non-finito was a recurrent theme with Michelangelo, who played on the opposition between the shine on the smooth, impeccable body of the Dying Slave, and the rough surface of raw marble. In his quest for absolute truth in art, he abandoned a work when he felt he could not attain his ideal. He thus left the marks of his tools (hammers, chisels, rasps, gradines and trepans) clearly visible — living traces of his tireless fight with raw material, which he worked relentlessly in his quest to liberate the figure imprisoned within. — The Louvre

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The Dying Slave and The Rebellious Slave were seized during the French Revolution and entered into The Louvre in 1794.

Out Of The Archives:
The Winged Victory

Winged Victory in The Louvre, Paris.
Winged Victory in The Louvre, Paris.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is that one piece in the Louvre that is a constant. Throughout the years, as the museum has undergone changes – pieces have moved, pyramids have been built – she has always remained in the same spot at the entrance to the Denon wing of the museum. Every time I visit Paris I always look for her on my first visit to the museum. She serves as a touchstone, a centerpiece, a starting point.

This exceptional monument was unearthed in 1863 on the small island of Samothrace in the northwest Aegean. It was discovered by Charles Champoiseau, French Vice-Consul to Adrianople (Turkey). The goddess of Victory (Nike, in Greek) is shown in the form of a winged woman standing on the prow of a ship, braced against the strong wind blowing through her garments. With her right hand cupped around her mouth, she announced the event she was dedicated to commemorate. The colossal work was placed in a rock niche that had been dug into a hill; it overlooked the theater of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. This niche may also have contained a pool filled with water in which the ship appeared to float. Given its placement, the work was meant to be viewed from the front left-hand side; this explains the disparity in sculpting technique, the right side of the body being much less detailed. The highly theatrical presentation-combined with the goddess’s monumentality, wide wingspan, and the vigor of her forward-thrusting body-reinforces the reality of the scene. …

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is one of the masterpieces of Hellenistic sculpture. The figure creates a spiraling effect in a composition that opens out in various directions. This is achieved by the oblique angles of the wings and the placement of the left leg, and emphasized by the clothing blowing between the goddess’s legs. The nude female body is revealed by the transparency of the wet drapery, much in the manner of classical works from the fifth century BC, while the cord worn just beneath the breasts recalls a clothing style that was popular beginning in the fourth century. In the treatment of the tunic-sometimes brushing against the body, sometimes billowing in the wind-the sculptor has been remarkably skillful in creating visual effects. The decorative richness, sense of volume, and intensity of movement are characteristic of a Rhodian style that prefigures the baroque creations of the Pergamene school (180-160 BC). — The Louvre