Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Bust - Balzac


  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1891- ca. 1892 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rodin, Auguste, born 1840 - died 1917 (designer and 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 WN

The bust is cast from one of the first studies in clay for a monument commemorating the French writer Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), commissioned in 1891 by the Society of Writers under the presidency of Emile Zola.

Balzac had then been dead for over 40 years. Rodin attempted to overcome this difficulty by researching the writer's life and visiting the region around Tours where he had lived in order to study the local facial types. But another, and more reliable, source for this bust was a portrait of Balzac of about 1822, attributed to Achille Devéria. The spirited and free handling of the clay of the original study, retained in the bronze, together with the erect head and direct gaze of the sitter, convey the confidence and determination associated with youth. Later - and controversially - Rodin decided to represent Balzac as an older rather haggard man, over life size, and enveloped in a long, loose robe.

Place of Origin

France (made)


ca. 1891- ca. 1892 (made)


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

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

A. Rodin
Inscribed on the front of the left shoulder

Alexis Rudier/Fondeur, Paris
Inscribed on the back of the right shoulder



Height: 450 mm, Width: 800 mm, Weight: 42 kg, Depth: 600 mm

Object history note

Given by the artist in 1914

Descriptive line

Bust of Honoré de Balzac, by Auguste Rodin, French, bronze, ca. 1891-2

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

Hawkins, Jennifer, Rodin Sculptures, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1975, p.23, ill. 17.
Lawton, Frederik. The Life and Works of Auguste Rodin. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1906. pp. 174-190.
Victoria and Albert Museum. Catalogue of Sculpture by Auguste Rodin. London. p. 18. pl. X.
Brown, F. P. London Sculpture. Oxford, 1934. p. 82.
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.
Alley, R. Tate Gallery Catalogue: Foreign Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. London, 1959. pp. 217-218.
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. p. 173.

Labels and date

This bust is an early study for Rodin's controversial monument to the French writer, Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), commissioned in 1891 by the Société des Gens des Lettres, and completed in 1898. The plaster model was rejected by the Société, as being a 'shapeless mass', and Rodin took it to his home at Meudon; it was eventually cast in bronze after his death. [June 2006]
This bust is cast from an early study for the monument to the French writer Balzac (1799-1850). The spirited handling of the clay, retained in the bronze, suggests the vitality of youth. In 1914, Rodin exhibited the bust in a London exhibition of French contemporary art. This was a reference to his final, highly controversial monument to Balzac, which showed him as an older man enveloped in a loose robe. [March 2007]






Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.