Click here to open the sub-menu!

English text deutsche Fassung

Definitions: What is the original? (1)

With the rise of individualism, the original has become the focus of art appreciation, as the only valid prood of an artist´s genius and craftmanship. 

With regard to Rodin´s sculpture, however, it should be acknowledged that the original clay model the artist created with his own hands nearly always has been destroyed in the process of documenting its shape as a plaster mould (modèle bon creux), that was employed for producing further plaster examples. These plaster examples were subsequently used for sale, exhibitions or further artistic modification (exhibition plasters, studio plasters, assemblages or unique plasters); foundry plasters or duplicates thereof were used to create moulds for bronze casting (piece molds and investment moulds).

"Barbey d'Aurevilly", 
plaster re-edited by Rodin
 with clay, 1909, photo by World's Graphic Press

Since we know Rodin developed many of his subjects from his lifelong labour on "The Gates of Hell", and never ceased modifying and combining these pieces, employing numerous assistants and artisans to translate his models into marble and bronze, it has become almost impossible to single out a specific object as "the" original of a certain line of subject development. Instead, art history has accepted all objects the artist has created with his own hands as originals; moreover, all objects whose production was personally supervised and authorized wby the artist, with regard to their final shape and finish, can be accepted as original works in a wider sense.

This restricts the use of the term "original" to such objects, that were created during the artist´s lifetime. The art market tends to use the term in an inflationary way, though.

 The term "original edition" refers to a limited number of copies derived from an original model - not the personal participation of the artist is considered here, but the economic strategy of the issuer, striving for protection of market value by a guaranty of rarity. Backed by French law, the Musée Rodin thus defends the authenticity and exclusivity of its posthumous Rodin casts, against radical critics like the Florida gallerist Gary Arseneau ("Dead men don´t sculpt").



© Copyright 2002 for data collection and research by Hans de Roos.
© Copyright 2002 for Website design by Borbála de Roos.
Browser or display problems?

Last update of this page: 15.08.2002