Honoré de Balzac

Artist: Auguste Rodin (French, Paris 1840–1917 Meudon)

Date: probably 1891

Culture: French

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: Height: 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1912

Accession Number: 12.11.1


In 1891 the Société des Gens de Lettres commissioned Rodin to create a monument to Balzac, who had died in 1850, for the Palais-Royal in Paris. Rodin made numerous preparatory studies. As the head evolved from a lifelike portrait to the huge, craggy, masklike face of the final version, Rodin made several trips to Tours, where Balzac had lived. There, he hoped to find men with facial characteristics similar to those of Balzac to serve as models for the author's portrait. This original terracotta represents one of the models, a man named Estager, whom Rodin identified as the "Conductor of Tours." The final version of the monument, finished in 1898, depicts Balzac wrapped in the monk's robe he liked to wear when he was writing. More of a symbol than a portrait, the statue shocked the Société and they rejected it. The first cast in bronze was erected in Paris in 1939, eighteen years after Rodin's death, at the crossing of the boulevards Montparnasse and Raspail.