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Overview

Rodin designed this figure as one of six colossal statues forming a monument to a group of fourteenth-century citizens of the northern French town of Calais. The six men had offered themselves as hostages to induce the English to lift a siege and spare their starving city. When modern Calais, about to tear down its medieval walls, decided to erect a monument reaffirming its ancient identity, Rodin pursued the commission eagerly and won it in 1884.

Rodin's burghers, following the conqueror's orders, are stripped down to their shirts, with halters around their necks and the keys to the city in their hands as a sign of submission. The sculptor portrayed the men as they were leaving their town for the English camp, where they expected execution. Rodin conceived the burghers less as ideally noble heroes than as ordinary men, ragged and emaciated after the ordeal of the siege, each experiencing a personal confrontation with death.

Jean d'Aire, his gaunt body visible through the sides of his shirt, stands upright as a pillar, with squared shoulders, massive clenched hands, and a stoically set jaw. In his bony face and sunken eyes one can read what his sacrifice is costing.

Inscription

on back of base: A. Rodin

Provenance

Acquired before 1905 from the artist by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Simpson, New York; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1905
Loan Collection of Paintings by Claude Monet and Eleven Sculptures by Auguste Rodin, The Copley Society of Boston, Copley Hall, 1905, no. 7.
1908
Renaissance and Modern Bronzes, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1908, no. 171, as Bourgeois de Calais.
1965
Wax Sculptures by Degas, Sculptures and Drawings by Rodin, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965-1966, no cat.
1974
Nineteenth-Century Sculpture, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1974, unnumbered checklist.
Bibliography
1889
Bartlett, Truman H. "Auguste Rodin, Sculptor." American Architect and Building News (19 January-15 June 1889): 250.
1889
Geffroy, Gustave. "Le statuaire Rodin." Les Lettres et les Arts (1 September 1889). In Vilain, Jacques. Claude Monet-Auguste Rodin: Centennaire de l'exposition de 1889. Exh. cat. Musée Rodin, Paris, 1989: 64-65.
1895
Mirbeau, Octave. "Auguste Rodin." Le Journal (2 June 1895).
1911
Gsell, Paul, ed. "Auguste Rodin." L'Art. Paris, 1911: 102-116, 188.
1917
Cladel, Judith. Rodin: The Man and His Art. Translated by S.K. Star. New York, 1917: 152-166.
1927
Grappe, Georges. Catalogue du Musée Rodin. Paris, 1927: 51-53.
1944
Grappe, Georges. Catalogue du Musée Rodin. 5th ed. Paris, 1944: 59-62.
1963
Elsen, Albert E. Rodin. New York, 1963: 70-87.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 168.
1967
Descharnes, Robert, and Jean-François Chabrun. Auguste Rodin. Lausanne, 1967: 106-115.
1967
Spear, Athena Tacha. Rodin Sculpture in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1967: 40-47.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 148, repro.
1971
Goldscheider, Cécile. "La Nouvelle Salle des Bourgeois de Calais au Musée Rodin." La Revue du Louvre 21 (1971): 169, pl. 3.
1976
Tancock, John. The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin. Philadelphia, 1976: 376-402.
1977
de Caso, Jacques, and Patricia B. Sanders. Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection. San Francisco, 1977: 204-225.
1977
Judrin, Claudie, Monique Laurent, and Dominique Viéville. Auguste Rodin: Le Monument des Bourgeois de Calais (1884-1895) dans les collections du... Exh. cat. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais; Musée Rodin, Paris. Paris, 1977.
1977
McNamara, Mary Jo, and Albert E. Elsen. Rodin's Burghers of Calais. New York and Los Angeles, 1977.
1986
Lampert, Catherine. Rodin: Sculpture & Drawings. Exh. cat. Hayward Gallery, London, 1986: 101-115.
1986
Miller, Joan Vita, and Gary Marotta. Rodin: The B. Gerald Cantor Collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986: 41-71.
1986
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Auguste Rodin. Translated in G. Craig Houston. Rodin and Other Prose Pieces. London, 1986: 35-39.
1987
Le Nouëne, Patrick, and Hélène Pinet. Auguste Rodin: Le Monument des Bourgeois de Calais et ses photographes. Exh. cat. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais; Musée Faure, Aix-les-Bains. Calais, 1987.
1988
Beausire, Alain. Quand Rodin Exposait. Paris, 1988: 95, 96, 98, 100, 105, 116, 123, 151, 157, 158, 164, 192, 201, 205, 210, 212, 213, 217, 220, 231, 237, 250, 251, 253, 260, 266, 357, 359, 366.
1988
Fonsmark, Anne-Birgitte. Rodin: La collection du Brasseur Carl Jacobsen à la Glypthothèque. Copenhagen, 1988: 111-115.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 304, repro.
1993
Butler, Ruth. Rodin. The Shape of Genius. New Haven and London, 1993: 199-213.
1994
Levkoff, Mary L. Rodin and His Time: The Cantor Gifts to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1994: 92-101.
1994
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 200, repro.
1998
Porter, John R., and Yves Lacasse. Rodin à Québec. Quebec, 1998: 95-105.
2000
Butler, Ruth, and Suzanne Glover Lindsay, with Alison Luchs, Douglas Lewis, Cynthia J. Mills, and Jeffrey Weidman. European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2000: 345-348, color repro.