Auguste Rodin (French, 18401917)
Bronze; H. 19 3/4 in. (50.2 cm)
Gift of Thomas F. Ryan, 1910 (11.173.3)
Also called She Who Was Once the Helmet-Maker's Beautiful Wife (Celle qui fut la belle heaulmière), a title taken from the poem "Les Regrets de la Belle Heaulmière" by François Villon (1431ca. 1463), this sculpture derives from a bas-relief on the lower part of the left pilaster of The Gates of Hell. It is one of the many figures that Rodin extracted from the model for the monumental portal and reworked as individual sculptures to be purchased by collectors. The subject for this figure was an Italian woman who had once been a professional model. Rodin used her aged body for several studies and for groups of figures, as well as for this starkly realistic sculpture. In the Paris Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1890, it was called simply Old Woman (Vielle femme), suggesting that both titles, The Old Courtesan and She Who Was Once the Helmet-Maker's Beautiful Wife, may have been fanciful afterthoughts.