Around 40 copies of “The Thinker” are in existence, mostly cast after Rodin’s death in 1917.
“Today, there are only around 10 casts that remain with private owners,” Christie’s impressionist and modern art specialist Lea Bloch said.
The sculpture on sale is signed A. Rodin, with the foundry mark of Alexis Rudier, a Parisian workshop where most of Rodin’s bronzes were cast.
Much smaller than the life-size ‘The Thinker’ displayed at the Rodin museum gardens in Paris and versions of the sculpture at the Columbia University in New York and the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the 71.3 cm-high cast on auction was conceived as part of the artist’s “The Gates of Hell” masterpiece.
Rodin’s “The Thinker” originally represented the poet Dante, contemplating his writings. But the sculptor decided to strip away all attributes of Dante from the work and carved out a universal symbol of thought and creative genius.
“This Rodin masterpiece is very important because we can truly see his very modern way of seeing the human body – very muscular, but also in movement, fully questioning, in doubt,” Bloch said, adding that this is probably why the work “resonates as one of the purest expressions today of what truly is the process of creation.”‘
“What makes my ‘Thinker’ think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils, and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes,” Rodin was quoted as saying, by art historian J. Tancock.
The record sale for a cast of “The Thinker” was for $15.2 million (13.97 million euros) at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2013. That version, also 72 cm-high, was commissioned by publishing mogul Ralph Pulitzer in 1906.
Video Soundbites (french)
CHRISTIE’S IMPRESSIONIST AND MODERN ART SPECIALIST, LEA BLOCH, SAYING:
“The estimation is priced at between 9 to 14 million euros. Of course, we hope that it will sell for the highest possible price. This is a very high estimate, but of course this is explained by the rareness of this piece. We’re in front of this bronze cast that measures around 70 centimetres, which was the original size of the piece. It has existed in several versions, several sizes. This one has the same original size that adorns the top of ‘The Gates of Hell’. This cast was made quite early on, around 1928, and today, there are only around 10 casts that remain with private owners.”
“In the beginning, he (Rodin) was imagining something that was more realistic with regard to the vision he had of Dante, but in the end, he changed through the years, looking at the poet in a more vast manner – the creator, in his image, in the image of Dante, in the image of all these artists who, until today, get inspired by this ‘Thinker,’ which today remains Rodin’s most important masterpiece.”
“This Rodin masterpiece is very important because we can truly see his very modern way of seeing the human body – very muscular, but also in movement, fully questioning, in doubt. And it’s really doubt that inhabits a creator, and until today, it inhabits all artists, which is the reason why this piece probably resonates as one of the purest expressions today of what truly is the process of creation.”‘