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Statue - The Age of Bronze (L'Age d'Airain)
  • The Age of Bronze (L'Age d'Airain)
    Rodin, Auguste, born 1840 - died 1917
  • Enlarge image

The Age of Bronze (L'Age d'Airain)

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1876 (cast)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rodin, Auguste, born 1840 - died 1917 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Rodin in 1914

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 21, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case FS

This statue brought Rodin to the attention of the public. It is Rodin's earliest full-scale, independently produced statue to have survived. He started work on the figure in 1875, having recently returned from a visit to Italy where he was profoundly influenced by Michelangelo and the works of classical and Renaissance sculptors which he sketched extensively. It owes much to these respected influences, but caused much controversy when the plaster model was first exhibited in 1877. Most wounding to Rodin were repeated accusations, due to the very life-like appearance of the figure, that it had been cast from life, rather than being freely modelled. Criticism was also made of the 'low type' of model chosen, which needed 'a little more nobility in the head, a little less thinness of the lips'. Rodin created the work during the Franco-Prussian war, when he left Paris to live in Belgium. He chose a soldier, Auguste Neyt, as the model, from barracks near to his home in Brussels.
The figure originally held a spear (shown in a drawing by Rodin), and its first title was 'The Vanquished'. When the spear was removed by Rodin soon afterwards, there was much confusion and speculation about the meaning of the statue. Another title given to it was 'The Awakening of Mankind', before it was exhibited as 'The Age of Bronze' in the Paris Salon of 1877.
The figure was cast in bronze in May 1880 and a cast was purchased by the French Government, marking official acceptance of the work. It was set up in the Luxembourg Gardens in 1884. A number of versions have been cast since, from 1890s and into the 20th century.

Physical description

Statue, 'The Age of Bronze' (L'Age d'Airain), bronze.

Place of Origin

France (made)


ca. 1876 (cast)


Rodin, Auguste, born 1840 - died 1917 (maker)

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions


Inscribed signature


Height: 180.3 cm

Object history note

Given by the artist.

Descriptive line

Statue, 'The Age of Bronze' (L'Age d'Airain), bronze, Auguste Rodin, France, about 1876

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Potts, Alex, The Sculptural Imagination, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2000, another version - p.89, ill.45 and 46
Butler, Ruth and Glover Lindsay, Suzanne, European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century, Washington, National Gallery of Art, distributed by Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford, 2000, another version - plaster model, 1875-76, cast 1898. Accession number 1991.183.1, p.310-315, ill. p. 311. Another version - bronze model 1875-76, cast 1903-1904. Accession number 1942.5.10 (A.74)
Hawkins, Jennifer, Rodin Sculptures, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1975, p.16, ill . 1 and 2.
Cf. Blühm, Adreas. The Colour of Sculpture, 1840-1910. 1996. pp. 200-201.
Cf. Curtis P. and T. Friedman, eds. Leeds' Sculpture Collections: Illustrated Concise Catalogue. Leeds, 1996. p. 12., frontpiece.
Mitchell, Claudine. The Gift to the British Nation: Rodin at the V&A. In: Mitchell, Claudine, ed. Rodin: The Zola of Sculpture. Henry Moore Institute, 2003. pp. 183-200.
Avery, Charles. From David d'Angers to Rodin: Britain's National Collection of French Nineteenth-century Sculpture. The Connoisseur. April 1972. vol. 179. no. 722. p. 238. fig. 9.
Trusted, Majorie. ed. The Making of Sculpture: the Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: V&A Publications, 2007. p. 65. pl. 105.
Antoinette, Le Normand-Romain. The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin. London : Lund Humphries ; Paris : Éditions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2007. pp. 121-129.
Alley, R. Tate Gallery Catalogues: Foreign Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures. London, 1959. pp. 210-211.

Labels and date

This is Rodin's first large sculpture. It was influenced by his admiration of Michelangelo, especially his Captive Slaves. When first exhibited in 1877 the untitled plaster caused great controversy as critics assumed it was a life cast. Later its power and anatomical realism were acknowledged. [March 2007]

Subjects depicted

Men; Figures; Nudes




Sculpture Collection

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