Auguste Rodin
Pierre de Wissant, Monumental Nude

Gallery 15

About this work of art

Audio description of the work of art

This imposing bronze sculpture was originally modelled in clay around 1886-87 in Paris. This specific bronze was cast at the Coubertin Foundry in 1985 from the original model by Rodin. It’s emotional content, dark polished surface and magnificent size make it a memorable work in the collection.

This piece was a study for one of the six councilmen in Rodin’s famous work The Burghers of Calais, a monument to an event in the Hundred Years’ War. In the later finished piece the men wear tattered sackcloth and ashes as they go to meet their doom. Dwarfing the average person this imposing sculpture stands 215cms tall by 100cms wide and 60cms deep.

A naked Pierre de Wissantis depicted, his lean gaunt frame propelled forward as if in anguish or pain. His face is a portrait of grief and distress. His left hip juts out at about 15 degrees so that the left leg can take the weight of the twisted torso. Flexed slightly at the elbow, his left arm dangles loosely by the side of his body, the hand is partially cupped, and fingers curled. His feet are about 50cms apart, the right heel is raised as if he is about to take a step, the toes gouge into a small hillock of earth, there is a well-defined large toenail. The whole right side of his body twists forwards, his chest turns to the left so that his bent right elbow is brought in front of his body. The forearm is raised as if to shield his face, the right fingers are loosely splayed. He leans forward through the hips, his neck straining to the right, stretched and taut, head forward. Both hands and feet are oversized.

His spine is deeply set in the hollow of his back, the arch of his rib cage is evident and as is the way the muscles lie beneath the skin and wrap around the bones. This body of flesh and bone looks vulnerable; his slender legs are thin and bony, as are the hips and buttocks. His ribs are visible under the flesh, the sinews and veins stand out on his legs and arms. Following the line of his shoulders, the chest turns to the left attempting to cover the exposure of belly button, abdominal muscles, and genitalia.

Tiny horizontal lines furrow the brow between and above his eyebrows, which are rigidly raised at the centre above the nose. The eyes are mere slits, downcast hollows. High cheekbones frame a broad broken nose that bends to the left at the bridge. A hollow below his nose leads to the grim clamp of his open mouth, set in a squarish jaw with a deep cleft chin. Cropped hair short exposes a right ear bigger than the left. The anguish on Pierre’s face is palpable.

At the heavy plinth like base his bare feet stagger on rugged uneven ground. The artist’s name A. Rodinis signed on the horizontal area of the base behind the left foot.