Jean d'Aire from the Burghers of Calais

MAKER:
Artist

Auguste Rodin ( French, 1840 - 1917 )

DATE:
modeled c. 1885–1887; cast early 20th century
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General Description

Jean d'Aire is a study for one of the figures in Auguste Rodin's monumental Burghers of Calais. This sculptural group commemorates the heroic surrender by six of the leading citizens of Calais, whose city had been subjected to a yearlong siege by England's Edward III. Dressed in sackcloth, with ropes around their necks, their feet bare, the men presented the king with the key to the city. Impressed by their courage, Edward spared their lives and Calais. Rodin, however, chose to depict their anguish as the men anticipate execution. The monument's emotional power is invested directly in the gestures and postures of each figure rather than in conventional symbols of the patriot or hero.

Rodin discovered the facial expressions and bodily gestures which mirror each individual's inner world through painstaking trial and error. Indeed, although the commission was awarded in 1884, the monument was not unveiled until 1895, after years of experimentation with studies in plaster and terracotta after nude models, as well as additional detailed studies of faces and hands. The Dallas sculpture is an early bronze casting of the nude study for the burgher Jean d'Aire. Owing to the profound psychological and emotional authenticity of Rodin's plastic forms, even without the contextualizing elements of sackcloth and key, this single figure—his face and body rigid with stoic determination—is movingly eloquent. By determinedly eschewing conventional allegory, Rodin reinvents our basic notion of the sculptural image of the hero.

Excerpt from

Dorothy Kosinski, "Jean d'Aire from the Burghers of Calais", in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ _ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 109.

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