Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
Pensive Bust of the Duchesse de Choiseul
H. 39.4 cm ; W. 36 cm ; D. 22.2 cm
Rodin showed his sense of humour at the exhibition in Grosvenor House, London, by placing back-to-back the two versions, pensive and smiling, of his bust of the Duchesse de Choiseul.
The American-born Claire Coudert (1864-1919) married Charles-Auguste de Choiseul-Beaupré in 1891, in New York, before becoming a duchess in 1909. She burst into Rodin’s life shortly before 1907 with a vitality that swept the old master off his feet. Until 1912, she exerted a very powerful influence over the sculptor and gradually cut him off from his friends and relations. She took Rodin’s business dealings in hand, even making declarations such as, “Rodin! I am Rodin!” (Tirel, 1923).
The sculptor began working on her bust in 1908. After the first pensive, slightly austere version, shown here, he soon moved on towards a smiling, cheerful portrait of the sitter, no doubt more in keeping with reality. With prominent cheekbones, raised eyebrows and open mouth, it is as if the sitter had been caught laughing, possibly laughing at herself. This jovial side of Claire de Choiseul’s personality is heightened in the marble carved in 1911 : the reference points transferred onto the stone, placed on the tips of the breasts, were retained by Rodin.