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Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
H. 17.5 cm ; W. 9.39 cm ; D. 6.5 cm
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The second public performance of Debussy’s L’Après-midi d’un faune in 1912 was enthusiastically applauded by Rodin. He was particularly impressed by the dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950), just as he had previously been fascinated by Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan and the Cambodian dancers. The ground-breaking work of these different dancers and the exoticism of the Far-Eastern ballets provided him with a new repertory of gestures and movements which he studied through drawings and sculptures.
Nijinsky supposedly agreed to pose for him, probably in July 1912, to thank the sculptor for the support he had given him during the controversy over the Ballets Russes then raging in the press. The dancer is depicted here gathering momentum, drawing all his weight together in his heart, ready to leap into the air. The spectator is thus confronted by a person, who, in Rilke’s words, “pressing down on this center,would lift himself up and share himself out into movements, no, who would immediately take them all back.” It should be noted, however, that this interpretation was called into question in the 1980s, because the dance movement portrayed in the sculpture was not part of Nijinsky’s repertoire.