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St John the Baptist 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

St John the Baptist

Statue
1881 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

St John the Baptist was Rodin's second large bronze figure study. Begun in 1878, the head was exhibited independently in the Paris Salon of 1879, followed by the whole figure in plaster in 1880 (with a cross, later abandoned) and in bronze the following year. It was acquired by the French state in 1884 for the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. An early model for the figure, lacking the head and arms, was later exhibited as the Walking Man.

To counteract the damning criticism of casting from the live model that greeted his first figure, The Age of Bronze, the figure of St John the Baptist was made slightly over life-size. Rodin did not set out to make a religious subject, but the naturally awkward yet forceful pose of his untrained model, an Italian peasant from the Abruzzi named Pignatelli (the head was taken from a separate model), suggested to him a raw mystical character appropriate to the Baptist. This bronze, the first work by Rodin to enter an English public collection, was presented to the Museum in 1902 by a committee of the sculptor's supporters who had set up a subscription to acquire one of his pieces for the nation. To acknowledge the successful campaign, Rodin was invited to a celebration at the Café Royal, after which students from the Slade and South Kensington Art Schools pulled Rodin's carriage through the streets of London in homage to the artist. St John the Baptist thus became the official symbol of Rodin's dominant influence on establishment sculpture of the early 20th century. The Museum's collection of Rodin's sculpture was later substantially increased by the gift of 18 works from the artist himself in 1914.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Bronze
Brief Description
Statue, St John the Baptist
Physical Description
Bronze statue with greenish patina
Dimensions
  • Height: 201cm
  • Weight: 195kg
Marks and Inscriptions
  • A. Rodin (signed)
  • THIEBAUT FRERES. Fondeurs. L.Casne Succr. (marked)
Gallery Label
Rodin and Leighton both studied classical and Renaissance sculpture, particularly the work of Michelangelo. But Rodin's bronze forms a striking contrast with Leighton's suave Athlete Struggling with a Python (displayed nearby). Rodin's model was an Italian peasant, who adopted the pose spontaneously. The naturalistic modelling animates the surface of the solitary figure, suggesting physical action and a highly charged mental state.(March 2007)
Credit line
Presented to the Museum by a Committee of Subscribers
Production
Made after a model in plaster of 1879 to 1880
Subject depicted
Summary
St John the Baptist was Rodin's second large bronze figure study. Begun in 1878, the head was exhibited independently in the Paris Salon of 1879, followed by the whole figure in plaster in 1880 (with a cross, later abandoned) and in bronze the following year. It was acquired by the French state in 1884 for the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. An early model for the figure, lacking the head and arms, was later exhibited as the Walking Man.



To counteract the damning criticism of casting from the live model that greeted his first figure, The Age of Bronze, the figure of St John the Baptist was made slightly over life-size. Rodin did not set out to make a religious subject, but the naturally awkward yet forceful pose of his untrained model, an Italian peasant from the Abruzzi named Pignatelli (the head was taken from a separate model), suggested to him a raw mystical character appropriate to the Baptist. This bronze, the first work by Rodin to enter an English public collection, was presented to the Museum in 1902 by a committee of the sculptor's supporters who had set up a subscription to acquire one of his pieces for the nation. To acknowledge the successful campaign, Rodin was invited to a celebration at the Café Royal, after which students from the Slade and South Kensington Art Schools pulled Rodin's carriage through the streets of London in homage to the artist. St John the Baptist thus became the official symbol of Rodin's dominant influence on establishment sculpture of the early 20th century. The Museum's collection of Rodin's sculpture was later substantially increased by the gift of 18 works from the artist himself in 1914.
Bibliographic References
  • Williamson, Paul, ed. European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. 191p., ill. ISBN 1851771883.
  • Hawkins, Jennifer, Rodin Sculptures, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1975, p 17, Ill. 3
  • Petherbridge, Deanna. 'So much for received Notions about 'Sculptors' Drawings.' Sculpture Journal. Vol. XII. 2005. pp.115-131
  • Read, Benedict.'The Royal Academy and the Rodin problem' in Mitchell, Claudine ed. Rodin: The Zola of Sculpture Henry Moore Institute. 2003. pp.455-7
  • Sankey, J.A. Thomas Brock and the Critics: An examination of Brock's place in the New Sculpture Movement. PhD thesis. University of Leeds. Fine Art Department. 2002. pp.137.
  • Watson, Alexander. 'Constantine Alexander Ionides: Rodin's first important English patron' Sculpture Journal vol. 16. 2. 2007. pp.23-38
Collection
Accession Number
601-1902

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record createdNovember 20, 2002
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