Auguste Rodin (French, 18401917)
Bronze; H. 72 in. (182.9 cm)
Gift of Mrs. John W. Simpson, 1907 (07.127)
The lively modeling of the nude and its deceptively realistic appearance represented such a departure from the conventions of academic sculpture of the time that Rodin was accused of casting from a live model, a practice greatly frowned upon. Rodin preserved photographs of the human model on which the sculpture is based, a man named Auguste Neyt. He is shown nude, his clenched right hand on his head and his left hand grasping a pole. It is immediately evident that the sculpture was not cast from the body of the man.
Critics of the period were also dismayed by the subject, for Rodin not only abandoned all of the elaborate repertory of symbols with which academic sculptors habitually equipped their works, but also had stripped the figure of the spear originally carried in his left hand, relying on the expressiveness of the figure itself to convey its meaning. In addition, he changed the title from The Vanquished (Le Vaincu), possibly an allusion to the suffering and demoralization of his countrymen during the Franco-Prussian War, to the classical, but more ambiguous, The Age of Bronze (L'Âge d'Airain). Later the work acquired still other new titles. The Metropolitan Museum has retained the title by which the bronze was known at the time of its purchase from Rodin.