Anonymous Donor Gifts Rare Rodin Bronze to Swiss Museum

"The Man with Snake" has not been shown in public for over a century.

Musée Rodin
Musée Rodin.
Photo via:Wikimedia Commons
Rodin's "The Man With snake" (1887)<br>Photo: AFP via L’express

Rodin’s The Man With Snake (1887)
Photo: AFP via L’express

An anonymous donor has gifted a rare and unique Auguste Rodin sculpture to the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne. The work, entitled L’Homme au serpent (The Man with Snake, 1887) has not been shown in public for over a century.

According to L’express, the small bronze was sold following the death of its original owner, Antoni Roux, in 1914, and hasn’t been displayed since.

Created as part of Rodin’s artistic research when he was working on his epic though unfinished masterpiece The Gates of Hell (1880-1890), The Man with Snake had only been glimpsed in recent times in the form of its plaster mold, kept in the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The 70-centimeter tall and 55-centimeter wide piece—which depicts a man struggling with a giant snake wriggling across his chest and arms—has joined the collection of the Lausanne museum, where it was presented to the press yesterday.

“This is a major acquisition. Imagine the impact it will have on the museum’s collection,” declared Pascal Broulis, President of the Council of State in the Swiss canton of Vaud.

Auguste Rodin, The Thinker (1902) Photo Daniel Stockman via Wikimedia Commons

Auguste Rodin, The Thinker (1902)
Photo Daniel Stockman via Wikimedia Commons

The museum, in fact, boasts of three further masterpieces by the French master: The Thinker (1902), The Kiss (1882-1889), and a bust of the writer Victor Hugo.

Bernard Fibicher, director of the museum, told the Tribune de Genève that the donation of the elusive bronze was “unconditional,” and therefore not subject to agreements on whether it’s shown or not, or any fiscal considerations.  Fibicher also stressed that the bronze “will never reappear on the market again.”

Next October, just in time for FIAC week, the sculpture will be displayed at the Rodin Museum in Paris, as part of an exhibition dedicated to The Gates of Hell.

Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin in Paris
Photo: via Wikimedia Commons

L’express reports that the late Roux, a collector from Marseille who moved to Paris, first saw the plaster of The Man with Snake at Rodin’s studio in 1885. In a letter sent on January 28, 1887, Roux told Rodin:

You asked me 2,000 francs for The Man with the Snake, cast in bronze. I agree with the approved conditions for both sides. That means I will remain the sole possessor of this group ‘man fighting against the snake.’ You reserve the right to use the figure of the man but with modifications in the pose and without the snake.

Rodin accepted Roux’s conditions, which explains why the bronze in Lausanne is a unique and extraordinary piece.

Three views of Rodin's "The Man With snake" (1887)Photo: AFP via France TV Info

Three views of Rodin’s “The Man With snake” (1887)
Photo: AFP via France TV Info

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