Tuesday 18 November 2014

What's this Rodin?

Once again our art critique turns to a marble sculpture. This one is by Auguste Rodin and is known generally as The Kiss. It was completed in 1882.

The sculpture was originally titled Francesca da Rimini because it was in fact meant to be the 13th-century Italian noblewoman from Dante's "Inferno" (Circle 2, Canto 5).

Apparently, Francesca fell in love with her husband's younger brother, Paolo. If that's not bad enough, it seems she fell in love with Paolo whilst reading a story about Lancelot. (Hmmm ... I wonder what was in that book!).

Her husband Giovanni Malatesta, (which means John Headache) - he should have been called Ivor, (think about that for a moment).

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself, Francesca's husband Giovanni, discovers the couple reading the book, and more besides, and so he kills them.

In the sculpture, if you look carefully, the book about Lancelot is seen in Paolo's hand. You can't see it in this photo but the book is behind Francesca's back. I wonder what chapter he was reading just before he kissed her.

Also, in the sculpture, the couple's lips do not actually touch, suggesting that they were interrupted by Giovanni and killed before they actually kissed.

OK ... by now your mind should be doing somersaults as mine certainly is.

Imagine the scene for a moment. We have a couple secretly in love with each other. They read a book which somehow encourages them to take their clothes off and kiss. They are discovered by the irate husband who kills them both.

How? Does he shoot them? Attack them with a sword? Or hit them on the head with the book?

Unfortunately, we do not have the answer to that question; but as I explained earlier, all this is supposed to have happened in Dante's story "Inferno" years previously.

For some inexplicable reason Rodin decided it would be a good idea to make a marble statue of it all.

Obviously, he can't chisel a big block of marble from memory. And I doubt that Dante had any photos in his book from which Rodin could copy.

So the sculptor goes out searching for two really good looking models.

He finds a good looking man and a beautiful woman and asks them if they wouldn't mind taking off their clothes and kiss. After he recovers from the punch on the nose which the man gave him, Rodin tries to stop the nose bleed, and suggests they all go to the taverna for a few glasses of vino.

A bottle or two of wine later he explains calmly that he wants to make a large marble statue of Francesca and Paolo in an amourous embrace.

Well, with the wine and possible fame going to their heads they agree to pose for him; but the young woman is concerned about posing in the nude.

"What will mamma say when she sees me?" she asks Rodin.

"Don't worry about that," replies Rodin, "no one will be looking at your face!"

So they go to the studio, which is a marble stone throw's away from the taverna, take off their clothes, brush their teeth, and pretend to kiss.

One thing I've discovered in my research for this critique is that sitting naked in that particular pose on a piece of marble for hours on end can be very uncomfortable indeed; especially in the freezing cold. The male model in particular was somewhat nervous of the whole thing, especially considering where the lady's right knee is positioned.

Eventually, when the sculpture was finished it quickly became controversial because of what and who it represented. When critics first saw it in 1887, they suggested the less specific title Le Baiser (The Kiss).

And somehow, this made all the difference and it became very famous and a great work of art.

Which goes to prove ... It's all in the title folks, not in the mind. You can paint or sculpt anything you want, as long as you give it a great title it will become famous and admired.


  1. Hi Victor! At first, you said that the man was holding the book, and all I saw was his hand holding a thigh. Oh! behind the sculpture...does anyone really go back there?
    I can't imagine sitting still for this as a model. The poor guys leg must have fallen asleep! Just goes to show, sometimes reading books can be dangerous!
    You are quite the art lover :)

    1. Yes Ceil, the actual sculpture "The Kiss" shows the man holding the book behind the lady's back. I have not been able to find a photo of the sculpture from the back. I suppose most people like to look at it from the front and see how long the man will sit in that position before he jumps up with a cramp in his leg.

      You're also right about the man's hand holding her thigh. She's whispering in his ear "If your hand moves any further I'll give you a strangle hold like they do in wrestling!"

      It's amazing how much one learns when you research old masterpieces and why they were painted or sculpted. There are some really weird ones out there; and I'm hesitant to post about them in case my readers think/say that I have gone too far. That's why I ask readers to suggest the works of art for me to research.

      More art critiques soon.

      God bless you, Ceil.

  2. Your mind does not work in straight lines nor in circles---I can tell by this and other forays into being an art critic. Fascinating!

    1. Aha ... I wonder how my mind works.

      Sometimes I have so many stories buzzing in my mind I cannot write them down fast enough before I forget them. Earlier this year I was writing two different books at the same time. I am now writing another novel, hopefully it will be published in the New Year. God willing.

      By the way, have you read "Interview with my brain?" Click here: http://timeforreflections.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/interview-with-my-brain.html

      God bless.



God bless you.