The Metamorphosis of Ovid thumbnail 1
The Metamorphosis of Ovid 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 Metamorphosis of Ovid

Statuette
ca. 1886 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.
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object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Plaster
Brief Description
Group, The Metamorphosis of Ovid, by Auguste Rodin, French, plaster, ca. 1886
Dimensions
  • Height: 34cm
  • Weight: 5.74kg
Marks and Inscriptions
Au poète W.E. Henley/son vieil ami/A. Rodin (Inscribed on the base)
Gallery Label
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)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Mr Charles Shannon
Object history
Bequeathed to the Museum by Mr Charles Shannon, RA
Subject depicted
Literary ReferenceOvid: Metamorphosis
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • 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
Collection
Accession Number
A.117-1937

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record createdJune 5, 2007
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