Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
Camille Claudel with a Bonnet
Circa 1884 (?)
H. 25.7 cm ; W. 15 cm ; D. 17.7 cm
When Camille Claudel first joined Rodin’s studio, she was only 20 years old. From the outset, her face captivated the sculptor, who made several portraits of the young woman, very probably that same year: Camille Claudel with Short Hair, Camille Claudel with a Bonnet, Mask of Camille Claudel. The version with a bonnet was executed in various materials, from terracotta, the first stage, to bronze and glass paste,much later, in 1911.
Her face, which shows “the triumphant glow of beauty and genius”, a “superb” forehead, “magnificent eyes” and a “large mouth more proud than sensual” (Paul Claudel, 1951), nonetheless also reveals a sense of estrangement. By leaving traces of his working method visible – tiny drops of clay in the corner of her eyes like tears, traces of seams from the mould, like so many scars, Rodin used the very medium of his sculpture to bring out an underlying sadness, the emotional distance the sitter had put between them, her gaze far away.
As he had done with Rose Beuret and Mrs Russell, Rodin used the young woman’s features in allegorical portraits such as Aurora, circa 1895-97 and France (circa 1902-03), or in compositions that modified their meaning: Mask of Camille Claudel with the Left Hand of Pierre de Wissant, circa 1895 , or Farewell, circa 1898 , also known as The Convalescent (1906-07/1914).