Auguste Rodin, 'La France'

Auguste Rodin, 'La France'

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
'La France'
About 1904
Bronze
Height 64 cm
Inscribed 'A Rodin' on the drapery at the front of the bust and 'Alexis Rudier/Fondeur, Paris' on the lower left corner of the background
Museum no. A.39-1914
Given by the artist

The face is a likeness of the gifted sculptress, Camille Claudel (1864-1943), Rodin's pupil, assistant and lover.  Originally it was called Byzantine Empress and Bust of a Young Warrior, but when Edward VII visited Rodin's Paris studio in 1908 it was renamed St George (St George being the patron saint of England). In 1914, when Rodin presented the work to the V&A in honour of French and British soldiers in the war, he patriotically renamed it La France.

Rodin's innate awareness of how sculpture occupies the space it inhabits is highlighted by the niche that frames the head. Originally, the head faced to the right, but it was reversed in 1908.