Pallas with the Parthenon

Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)


Marble, Plaster

H. 47 cm ; W. 38.7 cm ; D. 31 cm


Rodin admired the classical beauty of Mariana Russell, the Italian wife of his friend, the Australian painter, John Russell. At his request, Rodin modelled the bust of the young woman in 1888, but he then took the initiative of re-using it as a starting point for other works. In 1889, Rodin exhibited the face alone, in the form of a silver head, and then transformed this portrait into an allegory.


His sitter’s regular features reminded him so much of the perfection of Antique masterpieces that he turned Mrs Russell into Pallas with a Helmet, an evocation of Athena, the Greek goddess of reason, knowledge and the art of war. Pursuing his investigations in this vein, he reworked a marble portrait of the young woman, placing a small plaster model of the Parthenon on her head. This was a reference to Antiquity’s most famous temple, the main place of worship dedicated to the goddess in her native city of Athens. Rodin thus revived the image of the poliad divinity, the personification of a city crowned with fortifications, while proclaiming his love of ancient Greece, the unsurpassable model.

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