The Sirens


Auguste Rodin ( French, 1840 - 1917 )

c. 1888
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General Description

Rodin's Sirens lure us today with their undulating bodies and mute songs. In linking desire with death they tell us more about the psychosexual anxieties of the fin de siècle than they do about classical mythology. The group of three women was featured in miniature in Rodin's "Gates of Hell," where they appear on the left side of the left panel as it was reconfigured in the 1890s. When Rodin first conceived them in 1888, he worked to create a definitive plaster, which was used as the basis for a large number of bronze casts and studio marble versions. He then miniaturized them, and placed them in his aesthetic prison, "The Gates of Hell." "The Sirens" was first exhibited as "Niobe" before becoming "The Three Sirens" in 1900. In the catalogue for that year's immense Rodin exhibition, they were related to a more recent love-death concoction, the Rhine maidens of Richard Wagner's operas. The sheer beauty of the group and their comparative simplicity of meaning must have appealed to many collectors of Rodin's work. At least five marble versions survive, all created by studio assistants in Rodin's immense and utterly professional atelier. In addition to the version in the Reves Collection, other marble translation with various bases can be found at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Montreal; the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen; and the Thielska Gallery, Stockholm. All were carved from similar milky-white crystalline marble, which was superbly polished to encourage the viewer's tactile desires. "Impressionist Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection," page 133