Auguste Rodin

Auguste Rodin
Iris, messagère des dieux (Figure volante), 1890/91
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Auguste Rodin
Iris, messagère des dieux (Figure volante), 1890/91

Iris, Messenger of the Gods (Figure in Flight)
Bronze, 83.3 x 87 x 36 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Naked, headless and her pudenda fully exposed, Iris, Messenger of the Gods is one of Rodin’s most erotic sculptures. Seemingly oblivious to the laws of gravity, she balances her body like a dancer on the tip of her left foot. The figure was originally conceived as a component of a monument to Victor Hugo, designed to float above the writer’s head as an embodiment of his inspiration. Rodin later developed Iris as an autonomous work, executing it in several versions. He deliberately kept the ‘heavenly’ body as a fragment to give greater emphasis to its intrinsic essence. It is charged with an exceptional degree of physical tension, almost as if pure life, full of energy and passion, were still pulsating beneath its bronze skin. The female womb – the generative source of conception and birth, of passion and eroticism – forms the sculpture’s fulcrum. As a ‘flying’ or dancing figure, Iris is caught in a charged realm between mythology, eroticism, inspiration and creation.

Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin

1840, Paris – 1917, Meudon

The French sculptor, printmaker and painter was also a trained stonemason and caster. After studying in Paris, Rodin worked as an ornamental mason in the studio of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse in the late 1860s and later for van Rasbourgh in Brussels. In the late 1870s, the art of Michelangelo and Baroque sculpture made a strong impression upon him, and he began incorporating impressionistic effects into his own sculptural works. Similar to the late works of Michelangelo, Rodin created figures that were only partially elaborated and unfinished torsi. In this way he succeeded in releasing sculpture from the artistic influences of the 19th century. His works are manifestations of highly expressive, psychological impulses.

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