Rodin Works: Iris, MESSENGER OF THE GODS
'Iris, messenger of Gods' exists in two versions: the larger version is headless and lacking the left arm, the smaller one, a modification without left arm and left foot, is also known as 'Flying Figure'. In 1890, Rodin intented this figure to be integrated in the second outline for the 'Monument to Victor Hugo', after the first model had been rejected in 1890. According to Grappe the figure was to personify Glory, although traditionally, Iris is known as the messenger of the Olympic deities, the female counterpart of wing-heeled Hermes.
The title attribted to the work may have been a manoevre
to support its acceptance with Committee officials, who must have felt
provoked by the combination of the national hero and poet Hugo with a
headless sculpture centering around the female genitals - Rodin's
not-too-subtle reaction to their rejection of his original concept. As an
additional interpretation, Levkoff suggests Rodin may have associated the
arched pose with the arc-en-ciel, the rainbow associated the Greek
The audacity of the pose indicates Rodin had entered a new stage of dealing with the female nude. Like in his drawings, he has by now abandoned the pessimism of his former work, still dominated by the ambivalence between passion and its denial. The erotic drawings Rodin produced in large numbers during the last two decades of his life show women in lying, standing and kneeling postures, spreading their tighs and showing their uncovered sex to the spectator.
'Iris' is a monument to Rodin's glowing erotomania - at the same time, it demonstrates his strong interest in new and unconventional forms of dance. Tancock mentions an article about the chahut dancer Grille dŽEgout which appeared in Gil Blas in May 1891 and was kept in Rodin's files. This form of dance, which was later named Can-Can, triggered a wave of 'dirty dancing' in the Paris dance halls of the 1830's. The chahut dancers threw their legs high up in the air, so that the upper body was catapulted backwards. Heinrich Heine - correspondent for the Augsburger Zeitung in the 1840's - described it as the 'dance of paganism', a 'satanic ruction'. Later, this pair dance was stylized into the famous revue dance show presented by the Montmartre cabarets. On 5 October 1889, the famous Moulin Rouge opened its doors, announcing professional dancers described as "a host of young girls who are there to demonstrate the heavenly Parisian Chahut dance as its traditional reputation demands... with a physical elasticity as they do the splits, which promises just as much flexibility in their morals." Like Lili Jambe-en-lŽair depicted here, Grille dŽEgout (a nickname based on the space between her teeth) was one of the vedettes of the Moulin Rouge club. The formal similarity of Lili's pose to the shape of Rodin's sculpture is obvious and striking.
In later years, Rodin continued to pursue his interest in dance as performed by Loïe Fuller and Isodora Duncan, the Japanese actor Hanako and the Russian dancer Nijnski, whom Rodin portrayed in 1912 - also with one leg pulled up. In the period 1910- 1915, he created a series of small dance studies, containing the essence of both bold and gracious movement.
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