Iris, Messenger of the Gods (with head) Auguste Rodin Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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There are many different versions of Iris, Messenger of the Gods, some of which have retained the head, as with the one found here, and some without. Generally speaking, the closer each version came to the hand and mind of Rodin, then the higher its value.

This sculpture is also sometimes known as Flying Figure or Eternal Tunnel, most likely because of the artist's tendancy to rename his creations several times. He would often not even consider a title until after the piece was finished, as he felt that doing so any earlier would hamper his creativity and force himself down avenues that he might not have otherwise chosen. Rodin loved to get his models to pull off challenging poses, particularly when employing young, petite women to pose for him. He would spend a lot of time finding the right person for each sculpture and also had photographers on hand to help out with documenting each moment so that he could continue to work even after they had all left his studio. His archives have revealed a large number of paintings and drawings that he also completed as a means to fleshing out ideas prior to starting each specific sculpture.

Rodin would often produce the plaster model before a casting was completed at a later date. In some cases that could be many years, even decades later. In the example of Iris, Messenger of the Gods, it happened almost immediately, with the bronze sculpture being produced in 1895 at the Fonderie Rudier, which was a prestigious and highly experienced foundry. Many other notable names from French sculpture would also use their services at various points within their career. The first thing to notice about this particular artwork is the open nature of the legs, which allow the genitalia to be in full view. The right leg is lifted up to meet under the right arm, whilst the left leg is in a relatively more natural position. The left arm is left out completely, and in some cases there is no head either.

Many of the models used by Rodin were slim but also muscular, similar to a successful dancer or ballerina. This allowed Rodin to capture well formed muscles across the body, but also to allow a supple body to be used in different positions. There was also a clear beauty factor here as well, and although some artists have focused on larger women from time to time, this was relatively rare across the 19th century art scene, particularly within France. In recent years this has changed a little to become a touch fairer, as shown in modelling more generally, but this connection of slimness to attractiveness is unlikely to fade any time soon. Rodin, it must be mentioned, also made use of male models too many times and followed a similar approach to them as well, choosing toned, slim young men.