Catalonian National Art Museum - Table of Contents .................... Architecture Around the World
National Art Museum
Montjuļc Hill, Barcelona, Spain
The Age of Bronze
Brussels, Rodin created his first full-scale work, The Age of Bronze,
having returned from Italy. Modelled by a Belgian soldier, the figure
drew inspiration from Michelangelo's Dying Slave, which Rodin had
observed at the Louvre. Attempting to combine Michelangelo's mastery of
the human form with his own sense of human nature, Rodin studied his
model from all angles, at rest and in motion; he mounted a ladder for
additional perspective, and made clay models, which he studied by
candlelight. The result was a life-size, well-proportioned nude figure,
posed unconventionally with his right hand atop his head, and his left
arm held out at his side, forearm parallel to the body.
In 1877, the work debuted in Brussels and then was shown at the Paris Salon. The statue's apparent lack of a theme was troubling to critics—commemorating neither mythology nor a noble historical event—and it is not clear whether Rodin intended a theme. He first titled the work The Vanquished, in which form the left hand held a spear, but he removed the spear because it obstructed the torso from certain angles. After two more intermediary titles, Rodin settled on The Age of Bronze, suggesting the Bronze Age, and in Rodin's words, "man arising from nature". Later, however, Rodin said that he had had in mind "just a simple piece of sculpture without reference to subject".
Its mastery of form, light, and shadow made the work look so realistic that Rodin was accused of surmoulage—having taken a cast from a living model. Rodin vigorously denied the charges, writing to newspapers and having photographs taken of the model to prove how the sculpture differed. He demanded an inquiry and was eventually exonerated by a committee of sculptors. Leaving aside the false charges, the piece polarized critics. It had barely won acceptance for display at the Paris Salon, and criticism likened it to "a statue of a sleepwalker" and called it "an astonishingly accurate copy of a low type". Others rallied to defend the piece and Rodin's integrity. The government minister Turquet admired the piece, and The Age of Bronze was purchased by the state for 2,200 francs—what it had cost Rodin to have it cast in bronze.
- Wikipedia (February 2011)