A casting of The Burgers of Calais commands the entry plaza of my favorite museum, the Norton Simon in Pasadena, California, and slowly circling the larger than life-sized work, studying the range of emotion exquisitely captured on each face is a mesmerizing experience.
The Burghers of Calais depicts an episode from the history of the Hundred Years’ War. In 1347, after the city of Calais had been under siege for eleven months, six prominent citizens offered their lives to the English king, Edward III, in return for his promise to spare the city. Upon hearing of their bravery, Queen Philippa interceded and obtained their release. In 1884, Rodin was commissioned by the city of Calais to produce a monument honoring the six burghers. Rodin rejected the established conventions of public sculpture and portrayed the men not as glorious heroes, but as troubled and isolated individuals brought together by their anguish and common purpose. He depicted the emaciated figures departing, dressed in tattered sackcloth, to surrender themselves to the English army. Features and proportions are distorted to intensify the expressiveness of the figures struggling with their conflicting thoughts of fear, indecision, anguish, and nobility. Norton Simon Museum
A majestic 18th century Parisian estate is now the lovely Muséé Rodin, dedicated to the artist’s works. The home has a storied past, at one point serving as a temporary home to the famed artists Jean Cocteau, Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse and Isadora Duncan. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the museum and highly recommend it to anyone who is lucky enough to be traveling to Paris!