Thinker project: a lack of information about a famous sculpture
One of the sculptures in the MacLaren collection that attracted vivid public attention was the enlarged Thinker, positioned as an eye-cather in the entrance hall, in bronze, and at the exit of the exhibition room, in plaster. Since it is known Rodin did not create the enlargement himself but left this to his long-year assistant Lebossé, the question of originality arises in a double sense here: to what extent is Lebossé´s creation a true Rodin, and to what extent does the MacLaren Thinker plaster truely correspond to the enlarged model that Rodin himself finally authorized by the end of 1903?
Although Rodin rejected the first bronze cast made by Hébrard in 1904 and hat it removed from the Louisville Sales Exposition, the enlargement of the central, dominant figure from the "Gates of Hell" has become popular very rapidly and additional Hébrard and Alexis Rudier casts were produced to satisfy the demand. By now, the Thinker or Poet has become one of the best-known sculpures of all time, its public recognition comparable to that of the Venus of Milo, the Nike of Samothrake or Michelangelo's David. The more surprising are the mistakes and omissions we found in many museum records and scientific catalogs; in many cases, the year of casting, the name of the foundry, the date and the background of the purchase or donation, the edition numbering and even the height of the sculpure were quoted erroneously or even not given at all.
Starting from a discussion with Dr David Schaff, Hans de Roos has reconstructed these data for most known large Thinker plasters and bronzes by now, contacting the Museums holding these works and comparing and verifying catalog data and collection records. An overview of these findings can be found under www.penseur.org.
Through our research, we could identify as much as eleven still existing monumental plasters. Still, no scientic documentation is available to answer the question, to what respect these plasters are morphologically identical and which bronze has been derived from which plaster.
What goes for the Thinker, probably is valid as well for the Age of Bronze, the Kiss, Eve, the Danaid, the Caryatid and many other well-known Rodin creations, that are globally spread in different dimensions and materials. Based on this insight, a programme for further research was developed and discussed within our team.