The Age of Bronze (L'Age d'Airain) thumbnail 1
The Age of Bronze (L'Age d'Airain) thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 21, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries

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

Statue
1880-1914 (cast)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This statue brought Rodin to the attention of the public, not just in France but internationally. It is Rodin's earliest full-scale, independently produced statue to have survived. He started work on the figure in 1875 when he had left Paris to live in Belgium following the Franco-Prussian War. Rodin began using the model, Auguste Neyt, a 22 year old soldier from barracks near to his home in Brussels, in October 1875. While working on the figure he visited Italy for the first time, in Spring 1876, where he was profoundly influenced by Michelangelo and the works of classical and Renaissance sculptors which he sketched extensively.

The dating of Rodin’s works is not always straightforward. In catalogues, usually the date of the original plaster is given (ie when the statue was conceived and first appeared), though the bronze in question was cast later. The original sculpture of this figure in plaster (almost certainly destroyed) was first exhibited at the Cercle Artistique in Brussels in January 1877 (so perhaps dates from ‘about 1876’, allowing time for it to have been transported to Brussels for display in January 1877), but it did not have a title then which in itself caused confusion and controversy. Most wounding to Rodin were repeated accusations, due to the very life-like appearance of the figure, that it had been cast directly 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'. The statue was first called ‘The Age of Bronze’, still in plaster, when exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1877 (no 4107).

The first bronze of the figure was cast by Thiébaut Frères in May 1880, commissioned by the French Government, marking official acceptance of the work. It was set up in the Luxembourg Gardens in 1884 (and is now in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris). After this, the original plaster was returned to Rodin as it was too fragile to be used again, and he made new plasters, probably from the original mould. A few of these still survive (eg in Cognac, Dresden, St Petersburg, Budapest).

Thereafter more than 50 versions of ‘The Age of Bronze’ have been cast in bronze, of which at least 26 in Rodin’s lifetime (and others subsequently, by approval of the Musée Rodin, following the terms of Rodin’s wishes). Six casts are in public UK collections. The earliest bronzes are in Paris (1880), Prague (1900), Tokyo (1901), Copenhagen (1901), Berlin (1902), Essen (1903) and other locations in Europe. The earliest in the UK is at Leeds City Art Gallery (1905, originally acquired through John Tweed). The exact date of the V&A cast is not known, but was clearly before July 1914 when it was exhibited in London.

The V&A statue could be catalogued and described simply as ‘The Age of Bronze, 1877’. Underneath could be added, ‘sand cast, Alexis Rudier, before July 1914’.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Bronze
Brief Description
Statue, 'The Age of Bronze' (L'Age d'Airain), bronze, Auguste Rodin, France, after a model of 1876-77
Physical Description
Statue, 'The Age of Bronze' (L'Age d'Airain), bronze.
Dimensions
  • Height: 180.3cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'ALEXIS.RUDIER.FONDEUR.PARIS' (Marked)
  • Rodin (Inscribed signature)
Gallery Label
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)
Credit line
Given by Rodin in November 1914
Object history
Given by Rodin in November 1914
Subjects depicted
Summary
This statue brought Rodin to the attention of the public, not just in France but internationally. It is Rodin's earliest full-scale, independently produced statue to have survived. He started work on the figure in 1875 when he had left Paris to live in Belgium following the Franco-Prussian War. Rodin began using the model, Auguste Neyt, a 22 year old soldier from barracks near to his home in Brussels, in October 1875. While working on the figure he visited Italy for the first time, in Spring 1876, where he was profoundly influenced by Michelangelo and the works of classical and Renaissance sculptors which he sketched extensively.



The dating of Rodin’s works is not always straightforward. In catalogues, usually the date of the original plaster is given (ie when the statue was conceived and first appeared), though the bronze in question was cast later. The original sculpture of this figure in plaster (almost certainly destroyed) was first exhibited at the Cercle Artistique in Brussels in January 1877 (so perhaps dates from ‘about 1876’, allowing time for it to have been transported to Brussels for display in January 1877), but it did not have a title then which in itself caused confusion and controversy. Most wounding to Rodin were repeated accusations, due to the very life-like appearance of the figure, that it had been cast directly 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'. The statue was first called ‘The Age of Bronze’, still in plaster, when exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1877 (no 4107).



The first bronze of the figure was cast by Thiébaut Frères in May 1880, commissioned by the French Government, marking official acceptance of the work. It was set up in the Luxembourg Gardens in 1884 (and is now in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris). After this, the original plaster was returned to Rodin as it was too fragile to be used again, and he made new plasters, probably from the original mould. A few of these still survive (eg in Cognac, Dresden, St Petersburg, Budapest).



Thereafter more than 50 versions of ‘The Age of Bronze’ have been cast in bronze, of which at least 26 in Rodin’s lifetime (and others subsequently, by approval of the Musée Rodin, following the terms of Rodin’s wishes). Six casts are in public UK collections. The earliest bronzes are in Paris (1880), Prague (1900), Tokyo (1901), Copenhagen (1901), Berlin (1902), Essen (1903) and other locations in Europe. The earliest in the UK is at Leeds City Art Gallery (1905, originally acquired through John Tweed). The exact date of the V&A cast is not known, but was clearly before July 1914 when it was exhibited in London.



The V&A statue could be catalogued and described simply as ‘The Age of Bronze, 1877’. Underneath could be added, ‘sand cast, Alexis Rudier, before July 1914’.
Bibliographic References
  • 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.
  • Hallet, Mark and Turner, Sarah Victoria, eds. The Great Spectacle: 250 Years of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, exh. cat. (Royal Academy of Arts, London, 12 June to 19 August 2018), 2018, p.91, cat. 33.
  • Lampert, Catherine, Rodin, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2006
Collection
Accession Number
A.33-1914

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record createdAugust 31, 2004
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