Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
'Honoré De Balzac' (1799-1850)
Bronze on a marble base
Height 41.5 cm
Inscribed 'A. Rodin' on the front of the left shoulder and 'Alexis Rudier/Fondeur, Paris' on the back of the right shoulder
Museum no. A.42-1914
Given by the artist
The bust is one of the first studies for a monument commemorating Balzac, commissioned in 1891 by the Society of Writers under the presidency of Emile Zola.
Balzac had then been dead for over 40 years. Rodin attempted to overcome this difficulty by researching the writer's life and visiting the region around Tours where he had lived in order to study the local facial types. But another, and more reliable, source for this bust was probably a portrait of Balzac of about 1822, attributed to Achille Devéria. The spirited and free handling of the clay, retained in the bronze, together with the erect head and direct gaze of the sitter, convey the confidence and determination associated with youth.
Later - and controversially - Rodin decided to represent Balzac as an older man, over life size, enveloped in a long, loose robe. He may have included the earlier bust in the 1914 Grosvenor House exhibition as a reference to that final version.