Monument to the Burghers of Calais, First Maquette (Monument des Bourgeois de Calais, première maquette)
This is a cast of the initial maquette, or model, that Rodin submitted to the town council of Calais to secure the commission for The Burghers of Calais monument. Departing from the council’s original suggestion to focus just on Eustache de Saint-Pierre, he decided to include the other five burghers: Jean d’Aire, brothers Jacques and Pierre de Wiessant, Andrieu d’Andres, and Jean de Fiennes. He arranged the tightly packed figures in three groups, each facing a different direction. This composition enabled him to examine the idea of collective sacrifice while also exploring individual responses through a variety of poses and facial expressions.
In this first model, the burghers are physically intertwined and elevated on a substantial base. As the project progressed, the appearance of each figure evolved, and Rodin made them independent of each other. He also abandoned the pedestal in favor of a more emotionally immediate siting:
I did not want any pedestal for these statues. I wanted them to be placed on, or even affixed to, the paving stones of the public square in front of the Hôtel de Ville in Calais, so that it looked as if they were leaving there in order to go out to the enemy camp. In this way, they would have. . . mixed with the daily life of the town: passersby would have elbowed them, and they would have felt keenly through this contact the emotion of the living past in their midst.
November 1884, cast ca. 1967
23 3/4 x 14 7/8 x 13 in. (60.3 x 37.8 x 33 cm) (show scale)
Proper left side of pedestal: "E. GODARD FOND.r PARIS"
Bottom edge of pedestal: "© by MUSEE RODIN"
Front, top of base: "A. Rodin"
Front, top of base: "No 1"
Gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation
This item is not on view
Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917). Monument to the Burghers of Calais, First Maquette (Monument des Bourgeois de Calais, première maquette), November 1884, cast ca. 1967. Bronze, 23 3/4 x 14 7/8 x 13 in. (60.3 x 37.8 x 33 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 84.75.19. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 84.75.19_large_SL3.jpg)
overall, 84.75.19_large_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Can you tell me about this?
In 1884, Rodin was commissioned by the city of Calais to create a monument in their honor of these six men, known as the Burghers of Calais, who had heroically volunteered their lives to save their city during the Hundred Years War. We have three of the six final figures in our collection. This model shows all six on an elaborate shared based that was ultimately never created at full scale.
Who were the Burghers?
The Burghers of Calais were 6 prominent citizens who offered their lives to the English crown in exchange for the end of the siege on their city, the French town of Calais, during the Hundred Year's war between England and France! Ultimately, their lives were spared, but Rodin chose to depict them before they received that news, in a moment of despair.