Madame Fenaille

Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)

Circa 1900 (?)


H. 49 cm ; W. 38 cm ; D. 31.5 cm


Former Maurice Fenaille Collection. Acquired by the Musée Rodin in 2006.

Maurice Fenaille, Rodin’s friend and patron, was both an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, who commissioned the sculptor to model a portrait of his wife in 1898, at the time of the Balzac scandal, as if to show him his enduring support.This commission, following the one for the decoration of his villa in Neuilly,would result in a lengthy creative process: three terracottas and thirteen plasters gave rise to one stone and four marble versions.


Marie Fenaille was a fine-featured young woman whose portrait,executed on a small and large scale,was the starting point for several variations, occasionally differing only very slightly.The present work is not a society portrait, like those of Mme Roll (1887) or Mme Vicuna (1888), but a more personal portrait, since, in the 1890s, Rodin preferred working from faces of people close to him: Camille Claudel, Rose Beuret, Mrs Russell.


Here, Rodin played on the duality of the young model, both a woman of the world and a woman friend, tilting her face to one side to emphasize her gentle, dreamy expression. The plaster bust, recently acquired by the museum, shows how the artist constantly pursued his investigations and research, notably by reworking the hair and neck with fresh plaster because the joint seemed overly strained.

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