H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition




Still another doubt is cast by Arseneau about the proper use of the word "authentic":
What can a Maclaren "Declaration of Authenticity" declare about a composition like "Hand of Rodin holding a Torso", based on a moulage of Rodin´s hand taken three weeks before his death by his plaster caster Paul Cruet? [Tancock, p. 637] .


The Philadelphia Hand of Rodin plaster

The MacLaren documentation affirms "that it conforms, with minor variations, to other examples of the composition and to the studio practices of Auguste Rodin". That may be true. But does that make it an authentic work by Auguste Rodin?

Arseneau refers to the opinion among Rodin scholars, Rodin did neither create nor approve the work and attacks Schaff for his "Declaration of Authentication". John Tancock calls it an "homage to Rodin the sculptor", logically implying Rodin was not the author. David Schaff, when asked for a comment on Arseneau´s critique, even appears to share Tancock´s and Arseneau´s opinion in the matter:

Hand of Rodin holding a Female Torso: Tancock's entry is succinct but correct and reflects the other comments you list. In my view the manufacture reflects the practice of Rodin's studio, even in this odd example, but if you have seen my declaration you already know that I believe this is not a work by Auguste Rodin, rather one by Benedite and Cruet. The torso, which seems to me a bad doddle in clay after an antique prototype, perhaps a small version of the Hellenistic Venus Pudica, is by Rodin; it is among the least interesting of his compositions. This plaster may well generate from the Cantor casting, a casting which in my view should never have been done. I termed the piece an authentic work by the studio assistants - of course, Arseneau did not take time to get the facts straight, so eager was he to attack.

[From: Letter from Dr David Schaff to the author, 3 Dec. 2001]

When all seem to agree The Hand of Rodin  was not created by Rodin himself, why is it displayed in an exhibition that should consist of authentic Rodin works? An analysis of the entries in other catalogs learns us how this composition only step by step gained the status of a Rodin work, although the doubts about its authorship never were a secret.

The Metropolitan Museum, New York, that owns another plaster cast of this title, lists it as follows:

51. The Hand of Rodin (La Main de Rodin) is composed of a plaster cast of Rodin´s right hand and a female torso modelled by the sculptor. 
The cast was made by Armedée Betault and inscribed to Malvina Hoffmann: 
LA MAIN DE/RODIN A/Malvina Hoffmann/1919. L. 9 inches. 
Bequest of Malvina C. Hoffman, 1966. Presented by Rodin to his pupil Malvina Hoffman and given by her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 66.247.6

[Vincent, p. 41]

The Metropolitan Hand of Rodin plaster

This raises the simple question, how can a plaster cast dated 1919 ever have been presented by Rodin to Malvina Hoffman, if we know that Rodin died in November 1917?

The National Gallery of Art, Washington, that owns still another plaster copy, in its catalog suggests another possibility:

Gift probably 1921 from the Musée Rodin to Mrs. John W. Simpson, New York;[1] gift 1942 to NGA. 

[1] This work could only have been given to Mrs. Simpson after Rodin's death in November 1917, and presumably after the end of the war in November 1918. The most likely time for Léonce Bénédite, the first director of the Musée Rodin, to have made such a gift was in 1921, when Mrs. Simpson donated funds to restore Rodin's home in Meudon. She had been there in the spring of 1921 and told Bénédite how disturbed she was by its dilapidated state (Musée Rodin curatorial files). 

[From: http://www.nga.gov/cgi-bin/

The NGA Hand of Rodin plaster

This makes it plausible it was also Léonce Bénédite, designated Curator of the Musée Rodin, - the man who ordered the posthumous enlargement of La Defense - who presented the Metropolitan plaster – dated 1919 - to Malvina Hoffman.




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