Last summer, as my mom and sister were waiting in line at the Musée de l’Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, France, I walked around the premises, too antsy to wait in line. I found a sculpture by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), and one of the most important sculptures of his is this one, featured below, Le Baiser (“The Kiss”) of 1888. However, this is not THE original sculpture, or is it? In his will, Rodin left to the French state his studio and the right to make casts from his plasters. Because he encouraged the edition of his sculpted work, Rodin’s sculptures are represented in many public and private collections. However, the relative ease of making reproductions has also encouraged many forgeries: a survey of expert opinion placed Rodin in the top ten most-faked artists (please see Wikipedia link for more information).
Let’s look more closely at this sculpture by Rodin…
Wrote the poet Rainer Maria Rilke of this masterpiece: “One has the impression of seeing the delight of this kiss all over these bodies; it is like a sun which rises and its light is everywhere” (Statue.com).
What is the story behind this sculpture? The Kiss was originally named Francesca (da Rimini) and Paolo (Malatesta) as it depicts the 13th century Italian adulterous lovers who were slain by Francesca’s outraged husband. They appear in Dante’s Inferno, which describes how their passion grew as they read the story of Lancelot and Guinevere together. The book can just be seen in Paolo’s hand (Tate Modern Collection). However, when critics first saw the sculpture in 1887, they suggested a less specific name, Le Baiser (“The Kiss”).
There are only 3 original large-scale marble carvings of the sculpture, created by Rodin. The first was commissioned by the French government in 1888 and is now housed at the Musée Rodin in Paris, France (also a great place to visit if you are in Paris!). A second, made for Edward Perry Warren in 1900 is now at the Tate Liverpool in England, and a third was commissioned in 1900 by Carl Jacobsen for his projected museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Carlsberg Glyptotek. A large number of bronze casts have been done of this sculpture, hence the large number of “copies” of the sculpture in the world (like the one featured above in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, France.)