Force and Ruse

Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)

Circa 1880

Pen and ink, wash and gouache on paper pasted on a support mounted on cardboard

H. 15.5 cm ; W. 19.2 cm


Emerging from a vague universe of ink wash and gouache is a tormented drawing of raw beauty, representing the violence of a mythical coupling between a centaur and a woman. It is hard to distinguish whether what is depicted is the violence of an abduction or the fiery passion of a woman, ardently straddling the fabulous creature’s rump.


Half-man, half-horse, the centaur, who represents the tumultuous battles between body and soul, between angel and beast, was one of Rodin’s favourite themes in the 1870s. Springing from the artist’s imagination, this work belongs to the period of his “black drawings”, even if it does not illustrate an episode from Dante’s Hell,but instead draws its inspiration from another of Rodin’s preferred books, Ovid’s Metamorphoses.


In this almost monochrome work featuring large, Michelangelesque bodies, the murky brown wash,mixed with gouache, conceals the lines drawn in pencil or ink, giving rise to a constant tension between form and haziness, intention and fate.

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