• France's news in English

Silver statuette is unknown Rodin: expert

AFP · 28 Oct 2011, 05:40

Published: 28 Oct 2011 10:14 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Oct 2011 05:40 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A French art expert unveiled evidence on Thursday he says proves that a silver statuette of a "wounded woman" is an unknown work by Auguste Rodin, depicting his lover and disciple Camille Claudel.

The unsigned statue, 22.5 centimetres (nine inches) tall, depicts a female figure, standing but stooped as if in pain, with a draped fabric over one arm and clenched between her thighs.

"All the clues point to Rodin," Gilles Perrault, a leading expert on the 19th-century master, told a press conference as he presented a report that purports to authenticate it.

"This statuette was born of unknown parents, but its signature is written in every muscle," he said.

The figurine -- which Perrault has dubbed the "femme meurtrie" or "wounded woman" -- was not displayed for security reasons.

There is no mention of the work in official records, nor in letters between Rodin and his lover -- and the state-owned Rodin Museum in Paris has voiced strong doubts about Perrault's claim.

But after studying the statuette for a quarter-century, Perrault says he is now "intimately convinced" it is by the sculptor, who lived from 1840 to 1917, and that it was created around 1886.

He believes its subject is a reference to Rodin's tortured love affair with Claudel, specifically to several abortions she is believed to have undergone during their time together.

The silver figure carries neither the signature of its creator, nor the hallmark of the foundry where it was cast and polished.

It first surfaced in the 1980s after an antiques dealer spotted it in a Paris flea market, and sold it to its current owner, a private collector, who contacted Perrault to establish its origin.

Himself a sculptor, Perrault is an official expert for France's Cour de Cassation who has carried out more than 750 appraisals connected to Rodin's work. He has worked as head of restoration work for the Louvre and the Chateau de Versailles.

His search sent him digging through the archives of the Rodin Museum and collections in France and abroad, comparing sketches, works and techniques by Rodin and Claudel, even rooting though their foundry receipts.

In particular he focused on the subject's hands -- the spacing between the fingers -- on its highly-stylised feet, and on the folds of the draping, which he argues are typical of Rodin.

"Back then," Perrault explained, "Rodin was at odds with the whole establishment, he was the only sculptor who used fabric covered with plaster or wax."

Analysis uncovered microscopic traces left by the plastered fabric on the statuette, he said, along with minute grooves similar to ones found on a  Rodin work in memory of the writer Honore de Balzac.

The woman's heavily stooped back suggests a spinal malformation -- just like the one that afflicted a model who regularly worked for both Rodin and Claudel.

And for Perrault, the woman's posture is "typical of the twist of the body and the tension of the muscles that the artist used so distinctively to express feelings."

"So many clues and coherent facts cannot be an accident," he said.

Perrault draws a distinction between his technical analysis -- which he says establishes the work as Rodin beyond doubt -- and his opinion on the subject depicted, which he admits is biographical speculation.

He believes Rodin meant to show Claudel "wounded, sad, but regathering her strength" after undergoing "one or several abortions".

Rodin had repeatedly promised to wed the young woman, 24 years his junior, but never kept his word.

The Rodin Museum has said it is not convinced by Perrault's case, and declined an invitation to his presentation.

"We are very, very sceptical, in the absence of documents referring to the existence of such a silver statuette, or to any other works that relate to it," said its asset curator Aline Magnien, contacted earlier this week.

"This work has no pedigree," she said. "Gilles Perrault has created a fiction."

Since the sculptor's estate was donated to the French state, the museum today acts as a de facto "guardian of the temple," Perrault said.

"If they have doubts about the work, it is tarnished as a result."

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available