H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition



During the symposium, a new aspect was put forward by Arseneau: The Musée Rodin prefers fresh plaster copies to be used in the foundries instead of risking the surface of historical plasters to be damaged – very much like the foundries avoided the risk of the plasters sent in by Rodin. 

This procedure is confirmed by Ms Antoinette Le Norman´s telefax message of 2 February 2000 to Gary Arseneau:

En réponse à votre fax du 26 janvier, je vous précise que lorsque l’édition d’un nouveau sujet est décidée, nous tirons une nouvelle épreuve dans les moules de Rodin, et nous assurent donc d’une fidélité parfaite. De cette façon les plâtres originaux demeurent intacts.

Arsenau judges this as evidence that the posthumous casts authorized by the Musée Rodin are not derived from the life-time impressions and therefore cannot be considered to be original, and perceives a contradiction with the 1981 text by Jean Chatelain, discussed already in the first part of this essay:

The examples are made from the same model but are eventually completed by different craftsmen at intervals of several years. When the twelfth copy of The Burghers of Calais is cast, the same plaster model will be used as was used the first time in 1894, but of course different craftsmen will carry out the casting." [Rodin rediscovered, p. 279]

In this point, I must disagree with Arsenau, since Chatelain probably referred to the original moulds (French: modèles) here, not to the original impressions. To me, his statement does not deviate from Antoinette Romain´s statement, nor from the way Cécile Goldscheider explained the matter in her 1968 interview quoted by Patricia Sanders: 

For each cast commissioned, we find the moule à bon creux in plaster in our reserves at the Meudon studio (Rodin’s former residence in a suburb of Paris, now part of the Musée Rodin) and we send it to the founder Georges Rudier. From this moule à bon creux, Georges Rudier makes a moule en matière sableuse (sand mold) which reproduces the hollow relief in which later will be cast the bronze.

[De Caso p. 31 and 34, Footnote 17]

The fact that the Musée Rodin prefers to spare the lifetime (positive) plasters is understandable and since the casting process involves a number of steps in which Rodin - being dead - cannot participate in anyway, the fact a fresh plaster copy is used in my opinion does not constitute a deception or falsification yet; possibly, Rodin would have preferred to have a clean plaster made as well:

He was not "superstitious either about bronze or about marble", noted Chéruy, one of his secretaries. "Since he was only interested in the form and the modelling, he preferred plaster and had taken great care to keep only fresh casts in his 'museum' despite the great expense ... Three casters were employed permanently ... His only regret was that plaster was fragile and could get dirty easily. 'How wonderful it would be" if one day an unbreakable plaster could be invented', he once told me" (arch. Rodin Museum). 

Rodin was not particularly attached to the "original" either. For him, one model had as much value as another, and a dirty or damaged plaster cast only deserved to be destroyed - and renewed. He therefore looked after his moulds very carefully, and in turn the Museum, aware of their value, also took great care of them, even completing them as time went by.

[Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, on the Musée Rodin Website]

But while Rodin could easily decide to have fresh plasters and complete moulds produced and authorize them as an artist, the Musée Rodin now seems to step into his artistic decisions, at least where it decides to create posthumous moulds and thus selects models for bronze casting Rodin maybe never intended to be realized this way.




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