AUGUSTE RODIN (1840-1917)
Saint-Jean-Baptiste, tête colossale,
55.4 x 50 x 37 cm (22 x 20 x 15 in)
Markings: Inscribed A. Rodin, © by Musée Rodin, numbered, dated and stamped with foundry mark
Saint-Jean-Baptiste preaching was one of the first of Rodin's figures presented at the Salon, in plaster in 1880 and then in bronze in 1881. Inspired by the unannounced arrival in his studio of Pignatelli, a peasant from the Abruzzi whom Rodin compared to “a wild beast … a wolf,” this work illustrates his decision to take advantage of the model's appearance to represent his John the Baptist as a wild, ecstatic being, with a realism that unleashed critical disapproval.
Updating traditional iconography by allowing chance to decide the model's pose, Rodin transformed his Saint-Jean-Baptiste into a walker. It was enlarged after 1900 (at the same time, in fact, as L’Homme qui marche), and the oversized head presented here, whose modelling remains close to the bronzes of Italian Renaissance masters like Donatello, reveals a remarkably vigorous expression. It perfectly illustrates the reasons for Rodin's choice: “This coarse, hairy man expressed in his gait, in his features, in his physical strength, all the violence but also all the mystical character of his race. I immediately thought of a Saint John the Baptist.”