A first in Romania – a version of the sculpture „The Kiss„, by one of the most emblematic representatives of universal sculpture, Auguste Rodin, is auctioned in the Spring Auction 2023, which also celebrates the 500th anniversary of auctions held by the A10 by Artmark Auction House. Considered a modern art masterpiece, „The Kiss” has a starting price of €80,000 and comes from the historical collection of a distinguished Romanian officer in the royal army.
The creation of one of the most famous sculptures in the world was inspired by the love story between Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini, two characters from Dante Alighieri’s „Divine Comedy”, who were caught kissing by Francesca’s husband, killed and condemned to spend eternity in hell.
Rodin created „The Kiss” in 1889, in marble, for the Universal Exhibition in Paris, commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture, after having previously, since 1882, tested various variations and positions of the theme (initially as a relief of the monumental sculpture of the Gates of Hell). Rodin subsequently recalibrated the now famous sculpture in several height variations and cast them in bronze, with the help of Emile Leblanc Barbedienne, in several examples, one of which is the one featured in the 2023 Spring Anniversary Auction.
Most of the examples are kept in major art museums worldwide, and some of those in private collections have sold in recent years at auctions for hundreds of thousands or even millions of euros. For example, in 2018, one of the UK’s leading auction houses sold a reduced bronze specimen for no less than €14 million (thus increasing the value of all other specimens held in private collections). The lot in Bucharest and up for auction is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued recently, in 2022, by the Auguste Rodin Committee, which precisely identifies the specimen and states that the find will soon be included in the new edition of the Auguste Rodin Resonated Catalogue (Catalogue Critique de l’oeuvre Sculpté d’Auguste Rodin).
A critical mention must be made of the few private Romanian collections in which important masterpieces of European culture have appeared and, from time to time, despite the fate of the Communist period confiscations, continue to appear, proving the same resilience that only books, characters and ideas have professed. A vision of genius, denoting great culture and refinement – at the time of the acquisition of the work, followed by the exceptional endurance of the collection, first in wartime and then in the frictions of the communist state, and finally a conjuncture of opportunity for the release of the work for sale on the market, briefly describe the three essential moments of an entire century spent in the collection of the family of the officer Nicolae Ionescu, who owned the Rodin sculpture in Bucharest. Colonel Nicolae Ionescu, an officer in the royal army, belonged to a wealthy family from Prahova, who owned vineyards and oil wells in the Prahova Valley (Urlați), related to the Macovei family (owners of vineyards in Odobești) and Constantin Vișoianu (former Romanian Foreign Minister during the Second World War), and probably acquired the sculpture by Rodin between 1906 and 1910. It should be noted that in Romania, bronzes by Rodin, cast by him during his lifetime, rarely appeared in collections but always in collections of Romanian personalities of the beginning of the century, such as Queen Elisabeta or the politician Ioan Kalinderu (bought by him for the Kalinderu Museum, with the support of the Eustațiadis legacy, today in the collection of the National Museum of Art).
As a result to the story of this exceptional exhibition, one might, for example, refer to the Rodin from the collection of Queen Elizabeth, composition in the March 29 auction from the collection of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Queen Mary and future Queen of Greece: Watercolour „View of Dobrogea” by the artist Cecilia Cuțescu-Storck, bearing the Princess’s cipher on the reverse and which took part in the „Artistic Youth” exhibition in 1916 (starting price €900). As well as, concerning the Parisian model of our art school, for example, a rare painting signed by Alexandru Ciucurencu, painted by him around 1930, in his first creative youth, when he was studying in Paris with the great modernist Andre Lhote, the original representative of cubism (starting price €12,000).
„The Kiss” is not the only famous sculpture in the March 29 auction. Alongside the work by French master Auguste Rodin, the Spring Auction also features the bronze sculpture „Archer at Rest” by Ion Jalea, with a starting price of €5,000. The original stone version of „The Archer”, sculpted in 1926, is in front of the „Ion Jalea” Museum in Constanța. Another version of the work was bought by the Romanian state and used as a standard-bearer for the leading international exhibitions promoting Romanian art, which took place in the 1930s and 1940s in Paris, Barcelona, Oslo, Zurich and Amsterdam.
„Spring Auction. The 500th Anniversary Auction (Part I)” will take place on Wednesday, 29 March, 19:00, at the InterContinental Athénée Palace, „Regina Maria” Hall, gathering 151 works of art signed by the Great Masters of Romanian Art: Nicolae Grigorescu, Nicolae Tonitza, Camil Ressu, Gheorghe Petrașcu, Nicolae Dărăscu, Samuel Mutzner, Constantin Piliuță, Iosif Iser or Horia Bernea. The exhibition of masterpieces is open to the general public at the Cesianu-Racoviță Palace, C.A. Rosetti Street, from Monday to Sunday, from 10:00 to 20:00.
For more details on art exhibitions in Bucharest, please check our dedicated page.