The National Museum of Western Art

update 24 December 2021

Currently not on display

Auguste Rodin [Paris, 1840 - Meudon, 1917]

Orpheus and the Maenads

DateBefore 1889
Size (cm)81 x 50 x 40
InscriptionsSigned back of base: Rodin; Foundry mark right side of base: ALEXIS RUDIER. / FONDEUR. PARIS.
Credit LineMatsukata Collection
Standard ref.M1286
Collection NumberS.1959-0038
Orpheus and the Maenads
Photo by (c) Norihiro Ueno

The maenads appear in Greek mythology and are frenzied women who followed Dionysus (Bacchus). Orpheus, who is considered the greatest poet and musician in Greek mythology, is said to have been torn to pieces by Thracian women during the frenzy of the Dionysus festival. In this sculpture, Orpheus' head lies at the maenad's knees. This group of figures also appears on the left-hand side of the tympanum of "The Gates of Hell". The kneeling maenad is slender and yet her body is expressed with vividly sensual curves. This figure also exists as an independent sculpture entitled "Standing Faunness". Of the maenads floating overhead, the front figure was also turned into a sculpture of its own entitled "A Flying Figure". (Source: The Digital Gallery. 1999-2006)


[?] Purchased by Kojiro Matsukata, Kobe through Léonce Bénédite, ca. November 1921, as ‘Les Erynnies, petit groupe de trois figures, bronze’ (Fr. 35,000) [see several letters between Bénédite and Suzuki & Co., November 1921, in Bibliothèque centrale des musées nationaux, Paris; copy in NMWA curatorial files]; sequestered by French government, 1944; vested in French government under San Francisco Peace Treaty, 1952; transferred from French to Japanese government, 23 January 1959; entered into NMWA, April 1959.

Exhibition History

The Masterpieces of the Ex-Matsukata Collection, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 14 May 1960 - 10 July 1960, S-38
Rodin, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 23 July 1966 - 11 September 1966, cat. no. 33
[Tour Exhibition] The Matsukata Collection of the National Museum of Western Art, The Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art, Hiroshima, 26 October 1968 - 17 November 1968, cat. no. 71
[Tour Exhibition] The Matsukata Collection of the National Museum of Western Art, The Niigata Prefectural Museum, Niigata, 14 July 1968 - 4 August 1968, cat. no. 71
[Tour Exhibition] The Matsukata Collection of the National Museum of Western Art, The Cultural Center of Ibaraki Prefecture, Mito, 22 November 1969 - 21 December 1969, cat. no. 70
[Tour Exhibition] Rodin, The Kurayoshi Museum, 13 May 1988 - 12 June 1988, cat. no. 23
Rodin et la Porte de l’Enfer (Rodin and the Gates of Hell), National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 21 October 1989 - 17 December 1989, cat. no. 31
Auguste Rodin, Das Höllentor: Zeichnungen und Plastik, Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, 28 September 1991 - 6 January 1992, cat. no. 48, repr.
Rodin: Selected Works from National Museum of Western Art, Yorozu Tetsugoro Memorial Museum, Towacho, 10 October 1996 - 17 November 1996, cat. no. 22
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. 45


The Old Matsukata Collection. Kobe City Museum, ed. Kobe, "Matsukata Korekushon Ten" Jikkoiinkai, 1990, cat. no. S-52.
The Matsukata Collection: Complete Catalogue of the European Art. Kawaguchi, Masako; Jingaoka, Megumi, eds. vol. 2: Sculpture, Drawings, Prints and Decorative Arts and Other Works, Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2019, cat. no. 1286, col. repr.

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