Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
Assemblage: Mask of Camille Claudel and Left Hand of Pierre de Wissant
Circa 1895 (?)
H. 32.1 cm ; W. 26.5 cm ; D. 27.7 cm
A woman’s face was a source of inspiration for Rodin. Based on an initial portrait made of the sitter’s features, the sculptor never thought twice about composing a new, symbolic work by adding another element, a helmet, for example, or a hand, as here.
The Mask of Camille Claudel, one of the first portraits Rodin executed of his young pupil and mistress, shows the scar-like marks left by the seam lines of the different pieces of the mould. The mask aesthetic, more than that of a head or bust, permits this focus on facial features, without the effects of hair or chest. The wide-open eyes and blank gaze however betray a feeling of distress that the addition of the colossal hand only accentuates.
This hand was borrowed from Pierre de Wissant, one of The Burghers of Calais. Whereas in The Hand of God, Rodin used the right hand, here he employed the more disturbing, threatening, left hand, completely out of proportion with the face.