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Balzac in a Monk's Habit (Balzac en robe de moine)

European Art

In 1891, a Parisian literary society commissioned Rodin to make a monument to Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), one of the most controversial and influential authors in nineteenth-century France.

From 1891 until 1895, Rodin’s idea was to make a physical and spiritual likeness of Balzac. In 1896, however, Rodin decided to make a more symbolic monument, associating intellectual and artistic creativity with sexual activity, for which Balzac was equally well known. Thus, Rodin sculpted a Balzac who grasps his erect phallus beneath his robe, an act reflected in the overall phallic silhouette of the final monument.

Rodin completed the nine-foot-tall plaster model in 1898. Critics described it as a snowman, a side of beef, and a mistake. The society refused to accept it, and it was not cast in bronze until after Rodin’s death.
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES ca. 1893; cast 1971
    DIMENSIONS 41 7/8 x 19 3/4 x 15 1/2in. (106.4 x 50.2 x 39.4cm) 133 lb. (60.33kg)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS Back, bottom edge of base: ".Georges Rudier./.Fondeur. Paris." Base, bottom edge, proper left: "© by Musée Rodin 1971"
    SIGNATURE Hem of robe, proper left: "A. Rodin No 1"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation
    PROVENANCE By November 1971, acquired by Iris and B. Gerald Cantor of Beverly Hills, CA; June 21, 1984, gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation to the Brooklyn Museum.
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    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917). Balzac in a Monk's Habit (Balzac en robe de moine), ca. 1893; cast 1971. Bronze, 41 7/8 x 19 3/4 x 15 1/2in. (106.4 x 50.2 x 39.4cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 84.75.22. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 84.75.22_SL1.jpg)
    EDITION Edition: 1/12
    IMAGE overall, 84.75.22_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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