The National Museum of Western Art

update 02 February 2014

on display Forecourt

Auguste Rodin [Paris, 1840 - Meudon, 1917]

Burghers of Calais

Date1884-88 (model), 1953 (cast)
Materials/Techniquesbronze
Size (cm)180 x 230 x 220
InscriptionsSigned front top of base: A. Rodin; Foundry mark right back of base: George Rudier / Fondeur Paris.
Credit LineMatsukata Collection
CategorySculptures
Collection NumberS.1959-0008
Burghers of Calais
Photo by (c) Norihiro Ueno Enlarge

In 1884 city of Calais decided upon Rodin as the creator of the monument of the benefactor of the city, Eustache de Saint-Pière, after long contemplation. During the Hundred Years War when the King of England crossed the English Channel and encircled the city of Calais in 1347, five of the burghers of the city as well as Eustache went as hostage to the English camp to plead for the safety of the people of the city. Rodin, moved by the chronicle written by Froissart, created a group of six despairing and suffering figures, instead of a monument of unique figure, Eustache. The burghers hold the keys of the city in their hands, have ropes around their necks and walk barefoot as they leave the city gates. The city fathers of Calais, who expected heroic figures, did not understand Rodin's suffering and solemn figural expression and refused it. As a result, the work was not unveiled in Calais until seven years after its completion. (Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no. 138)

Provenance

Purchased by the Japanese government in 1959.

Exhibition History

1960
The Masterpieces of the Ex-Matsukata Collection, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 14 May 1960 - 10 July 1960, S-8
1966
Rodin, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 23 July 1966 - 11 September 1966, cat. no. 37
2000
Tanka at the National Museum of Western Art: An Encounter between Poet and Art, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 25 July 2000 - 29 October 2000, cat. no. 2
2012
Traces of Hands: Sculpture and Drawings by Rodin and Bourdelle from the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 3 November 2012 - 27 January 2013, cat. no. 61

Bibliography

1990
The Old Matsukata Collection. Kobe City Museum, ed. Kobe, "Matsukata Korekushon Ten" Jikkoiinkai, 1990, cat. no. S-22.
2013
Masterpieces: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2013 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 136, col. repr.

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