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Courtesy of Musée Rodin, 2017.

This Monumental Plaster-and-Fabric Sculpture by Rodin is Shown to the Public for the First Time Following Restoration

The TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund supported the restoration of “Absolution,” a unique work in the artist’s œuvre

The Musée Rodin houses the largest collection of works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Opened in 1919, the collection’s foundation lies in Rodin’s bequest of his works and possession to the French State in exchange for the founding of a museum dedicated to the artist. Through sketches, plaster casts, and bronze and marble sculptures the museum explores Rodin’s constant artistic evolution.

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Two separate elements of Absolution before restoration. Photo courtesy of Agence Photographique du Musée Rodin – Pauline Hisbacq.

In 2017, the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund supported the restoration of Absolution (1885-1917), which had never been shown to the public. Absolution is comprised of three sculptures—the seated Ugolino, the head of the Martyr, and Earth—which were all created during the late 1890s. The combined sculptures are covered by a large piece of plastered fabric. Over time, the work had become dusty and dirty, and its sections had come apart and needed to be repositioned, for which a made-to-measure fixing system was created. The plastered fabric had become very fragile, having lost its folds and shape and suffering many losses in the coating, with splinters in danger of breaking off. The complex treatment required the expertise of a painting restorer as well as sculpture restorer, who aimed to recreate the sculpture’s original appearance as the artist intended.

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Absolution during treatment. Photo courtesy of Agence Photographique du Musée Rodin – Pauline Hisbacq.

The monumental Absolution is a unique work in the œuvre of Rodin and testifies to the artist’s bold and modern outlook through the combination of several materials and the assembling of preexisting sculptures. It was exhibited for the first time following its restoration in an exhibition celebrating the centenary of Rodin’s death at the Musée Rodin’s Paris location in the Hôtel Biron. In this exhibition, works by Rodin were juxtaposed with the work by contemporary artist Anselm Kiefer, sparking a dialogue between Rodin’s œuvre and the present day. Following the exhibition, the work has been on permanent display at the Musée Rodin in Meudon.

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Auguste Rodin, Absolution, 1885-1917, after restoration. Plaster and fabric. Musée Rodin. Photo courtesy of Agence Photographique du Musée Rodin – Pauline Hisbacq.
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