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Balzac, Study for the Dressing Gown
Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
H. 148 cm ; W. 57.5 cm ; D. 42 cm
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At each stage of his creative process, Rodin studied the drapery that would cover his naked figures. Balzac was famous for the dressing gown he liked to wear at home when writing, and the Société des Gens de Lettres wished to see him depicted in it.
Anxious to be accurate,Rodin used a dressing gown supplied by Balzac’s tailor.He placed it on the study of his body , then arranged the fabric how he wanted and stiffened it, before having a cast made of it. What came out of the mould was a strange plaster ghost, an empty garment that revealed the shape of the body that it would cover.This object enabled the sculptor to model the very subtle drapery on the Monument to Balzac : what Rodin was seeking was for this part of the work to vibrate in the surrounding atmosphere, for the light to flow over its surface without creating any excessive effects of contrast.
The dressing gown was thus the materialization of an aesthetic elaborated by Rodin at the turn of the century, whose flowing softness broke away from the concern for power still expressed by the head of Balzac.