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Statuette - The Metamorphosis of Ovid
  • The Metamorphosis of Ovid
    Rodin, Auguste, born 1840 - died 1917
  • Enlarge image

The Metamorphosis of Ovid

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1886 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mr Charles Shannon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This group is connected with The Gates of Hell (the bronze portal and doors for the new Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris, which Rodin was asked to design in 1880), where it appears vertically at the top right corner. Although generally known by its present title, other versions have been known by a number of names.

Rather than illustrating a specific story, the two female embracing figures evoke the spirit of Ovid, who was a favourite author of Rodin. Art critics of the late 19th century had difficulty in writing about these overtly erotic groups. They often described them as 'fantasies', and in so doing, ascribed less importance to them than to other sculptures by Rodin. But this aspect of Rodin's work held great appeal for young sculptors and writers of the 1890s who wished to confront Victorian culture. The present cast was later owned by the artist Charles Hazlewood Shannon (1863-1937), who painted groups of female nudes and may have created similar poses by studying this group.

The inscription on the group refers to the poet William Ernest Henley (1851-1903), whom Rodin met in 1881 through the exiled French artist Alphonse Legros. Henley became a close friend and champion of Rodin's work in Britain, through his editorship of the Magazine of Art and by introducing him to wealthy collectors, such as Constantine Ionides, and prominent writers like Robert Louis Stevenson. In the early 1880s Rodin made a bust of Henley, which was installed in St Paul's Cathedral in 1907 as a monument to the poet.

Place of Origin

France (made)


ca. 1886 (made)


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

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

Au poète W.E. Henley/son vieil ami/A. Rodin
Inscribed on the base


Height: 34 cm, Weight: 5.74 kg

Object history note

Bequeathed to the Museum by Mr Charles Shannon, RA

Descriptive line

Group, The Metamorphosis of Ovid, by Auguste Rodin, French, plaster, ca. 1886

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

Hawkins, Jennifer, Rodin Sculptures, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1975, p.21, ills. 10 and 11
Morris, E, ed. Curtis, P. 'James Smith of Liverpool and Auguste Rodin', Patronage & Practice: sculpure or Merseyside. Liverpool, 1989, p.71 and fig. 11.
Mitchell, Claudine ed. 'The Zola of Sculpture?: A Franco-British dialogue'. Rodin: The Zola of Sculpture. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 2003, p.21, ill. 1.2
Alley, R. Tate Gallery Catalogues: Foreign Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture. London, 1959, pp.227.
Elliott, Ann and Dyer, Angela (Ed.), Rodin in Lewes, Lewes, Lewes District Council, 1999
Lampert, Catherine, Rodin, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2006
Lampert, Catherine, Rodin, Sculpture and Drawings, Hayward Gallery, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1986

Labels and date

This group is inscribed to the poet W.E. Henley, who befriended Rodin on his first visit to England in 1881. Henley became a champion of the sculptor, introducing the British public to his work through the Magazine of Art, which he edited. Although generally known by its present title, versions of this group (of which one is on Rodin's Gates of Hell) have been known by a number of names. Rather than illustrating a specific story, the two embracing figures evoke the spirit of Ovid, who was a favourite author of Rodin [March 1998]



Subjects depicted



Sculpture; LGBTQ


Sculpture Collection

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