Eternal Idol
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Auguste Rodin, French (Paris, France 1840 - 1917 Meudon, France)
Carved by Jean Escoula, French
Eternal Idol
Work Type
Level 2, Room 2120, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Lure of the East
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
72.4 x 63.5 x 40 cm (28 1/2 x 25 x 15 3/4 in.)
Auguste Rodin, Paris, France, Created, 1893, Made for Eugene Carriere by commission, 1900. Commissioned through Leopold Blondin
Eugène Carrière, Purchased from the artist, 1900, Sold by his heirs to Edmund Davis, 1907.
Sir Edmund Davis, Purchased from the heirs of Carriere, 1907, Sold to Winthrop through Birnbaum, 1939. Purchased through Jean Delvolvé, Carriere's son-in-law, for Fr 15000. (See Beausire, 1988, p. 189)
Grenville Lindall Winthrop, Purchased from Davis estate through Birnbaum, 1939, Bequest to Fogg Art Museum, 1943. Winthrop paid £1500
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

Label Text: 32Q: 2120 19th Century , written 2014
Rodin modeled more than two hundred figures inspired by Dante’s Inferno for his massive sculptural project that came to be known as the Gates of Hell (1880–c. 1890). This celebrated figural group, derived from that work, was carved for the painter Eugène Carrière, who reluctantly lent it to the watershed 1900 Rodin retrospective exhibition. There it was so enthusiastically received that Rodin produced a second marble of the figures. The title is puzzling. Women were often described as “idols” in nineteenth-century poetry; the woman here may be only an ideal, in spite of her cool, fleshly presence. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “a mysterious greatness emanates from this group. . . . One doesn’t dare assign a meaning to it. . . . A heaven is near, but is not yet attained; a hell is near, and not yet forgotten.”

Publication History

Georges Grappe, Rodin, Oxford University Press (NY) and Oxford University Press (UK) (New York, NY, 1939), p. 25

Vidor Frisch and Joseph T. Shipley, Auguste Rodin: A Biography, Frederick A. Stokes Company (New York, NY, 1939), p. 298

John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, David R. Godine/Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA, 1976), mentioned in introduction, p. 30; no. 22, p. 210; repr. p. 47, pl. 9

Jacques de Caso and Patricia B. Sanders, Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, Charles E. Tuttle Co. (Rutland, VT and Tokyo, Japan, 1977), p. 65, repr. in b/w

Alain Beausire, Quand Rodin Exposait, Editions du Musée Rodin (Paris, France, 1988), p. 189

Daniel Rosenfeld, "Auguste Rodin's Carved Sculpture (Volumes I-III)" (1993), p. 479-483, cat. no. 55a

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (New York, NY, 2003), no. 119, pp. 291-293, repr. in color

Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), no. 119, pp. 299-301, repr. in color

Anna Tahinci, "Private Patronage: Rodin and his Early British Collectors", Rodin, the Zola of Sculpture, ed. Claudine Mitchell, Ashgate Publishing Company (Burlington, VT, 2004), pp. 95-117, p. 110, repr. as fig. 5.2

Rodin: La chair, le marbre, exh. cat., Musée Rodin (Paris, 2012), p. 17, repr. p. 17, fig. 4

Anna Tahinci, "Camille Claudel: From self-image to self-destruct", Sculpture Review (Fall 2000), vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 8-13, 31, repr. p. 13

Oliver Meslay, "Invitation à la Visit: la Collection de Sir Edmund Davis", La Revue du Musée d'Orsay (Spring 1999), no. 8, p. 48

Exhibition History

Exposition Rodin, Pavilion Rodin, Paris, 06/01/1900 - 11/30/1900

Sublimations: Art and Sensuality in the 19th Century, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/13/1996 - 07/21/2002

A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004

Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

Subjects and Contexts

Artstor Digital Library

Google Art Project

Verification Level

4 - Best. Object is extensively researched, well described and information is vetted