RODIN, Auguste
(b. 1840, Paris, d. 1917, Meudon)

Monument to Victor Hugo

1895-96
Plaster, 104 x 134 x 82 cm
Musée Rodin, Paris

The 1890s marked the start of Rodin's major efforts to celebrate two of the country's greatest writers of all times, Honoré de Balzac and Victor Hugo.

Hugo died on May 22, 1885, and after a grandiose funeral organized by the state, the government commissioned Rodin in 1889 to sculpt a monument to the famous poet. It was to be set in Hugo's crypt in the Pantheon, the former church of Sainte-Geneviève converted into a mausoleum for great Frenchmen.

Rodin made two proposals, the first representing a seating, the second a standing figure. In all of Rodin's oeuvre, the dense allegorical program of them marks his greatest concession to official taste, which the sculptor had always viewed with wariness and even contempt. Rodin failed to complete either of these two groups. In the end, only a seated Victor Hugo was completed, rid of its female allegories and carved into marble for presentation at the Salon of 1901. It was later placed in the gardens of the Palais Royal.

The present picture shows the fourth study of the first proposal.