Auguste Rodin / I Am Beautiful (Je suis belle) / 1882Auguste Rodin
I Am Beautiful (Je suis belle)

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Creator Name: Rodin, Auguste
Creator Dates/Places: French, 1840 - 1917
Creator Name-CRT: Auguste Rodin
Title: I Am Beautiful (Je suis belle)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1882
Creation End Date: 1882
Creation Date: 1882
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: bronze
Dimensions: Overall: 27 x 14 in. (68.58 x 35.56 cm.) Diameter: 11 in. (27.94 cm.)
AMICA Contributor: Dallas Museum of Art
Owner Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
ID Number: 1985.R.66
Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
Context: Just as Edgar Degas created human figures in wax, used them as models for drawings, traced the drawings to reverse them, and combined the figures with others to create groupings, so did Auguste Rodin create, reuse, and recombine figures to form new works of art through varied juxtapositions. 'I Am Beautiful' is among the more brilliant of the works that result largely from internal borrowing. Each of the two figures that twist in Rodin's fictive world derives from a separate source, and each was used in various ways in other works. The female figure, in a crouching, almost fetal position, is embraced by a standing man who seemingly reaches to the heavens to rescue her. Derived from 'The Crouching Woman,' the female figure was studied separately by Rodin and included in his most orgiastic work, 'The Gates of Hell' (final assembly 1917, Musýe Rodin, Paris), where she appears on the tympanum to the left of 'The Thinker.' The male figure, who appears to rise from the bronze base in 'I Am Beautiful,' is 'The Falling Man' in 'The Gates of Hell;' there he plunges into hell from underneath the lintel at the top left of the great bronze doors. In uniting these figures, Rodin created a juxtaposition of opposites - female and male, closed and open, falling and rising, fetal and erect. This ritual conjoining occurred in a plaster dated 1882, used in turn as the basis for the Reves bronze, which was cast in a small edition. Other examples of the bronze can be found in the Rodin Museum of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Kunstmuseum in Helsinki, the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, and the Musýe Rodin in Paris.Even during Rodin's lifetime, the work has been known by several titles, the variety of which indicates that the sculpture's meanings are unclear. It seems that the work was first exhibited as 'The Rape' when it was shown in 1899 and 1900 in exhibitions conceived under Rodin's direction. It was also shown as 'The Cat' and 'Carnal Love.' The bronze version, however, was later cast with a lengthy inscription from Baudelaire's poem 'La Beautý' ('Beauty,' in 'Les Fleurs du mal'):'Je suis belle, ý mortels! Comme un rýve de pierre,Et mon sein, oý Chacun s'est meurtri tour ý tour,Est fait pour inspirer au poýte un amourEternal et muet ainsi que la matiýre.'(Baudelaire 1961, 20)'I am beautiful, oh mortals, like a marble dream,And my breast on which each sacrifices himself in turn,Was made to inspire poets with a loveAs eternal and silent as matter.'(Trans. Julie Lawrence Cochran)For unknown reasons, Rodin changed the last line of Baudelaire's masterpiece to 'Etant alors muet ainsi que la matiýre' (So being mute as matter), making the quatrain unclear.What did Rodin mean in presenting us with this powerful image? The great Rodin scholar Albert Elsen felt it was the chance coupling of figures in the artist's studio that created 'this striking union,' one that Rodin himself only slowly came to understand verbally (Elsen 1985, 83). As is often the case, he chose a literary analogue that is as ambiguous as his forms. The verse acts as a cipher for the mystery at the core of the sculptural enterprise as practiced by its greatest 19th-century exponent. In its commingling of violence and empathy, restless movement, and evocation of a famous poet, whose early death from syphilis in 1867 came as a shock to vanguard artists, 'I Am Beautiful' embodies a difficult notion of beauty.'Impressionist Paintings Drawings and Sculpture from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection,' pages 82-83
AMICA ID: DMA_.1985.R.66
AMICA Library Year: 2003
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