“The Mature Age” by Camille Claudel
“The Mature Age” by Camille Claudel comprises three nude figures. A young woman is kneeling who has just released the hand of the older standing man who he is being drawn away by the embrace of an older woman with a swirling drape. The sculpture can be viewed as an allegory of ageing, the man leaving behind youth and progressing towards maturity and eventual death. The sculptures can also be interpreted as reflecting Claudel’s abandonment by Auguste Rodin, who after a lovers relationship with the younger Camille Claudel returned to his older partner.
Camille Claudel explained the symbolism of this sculpture in letters to her brother as representing Destiny. Based on these letters, this sculpture was personal and autobiographical work. Thus, Rodin was shocked and angered when he saw the sculpture for the first time in 1899. He cut off support for Claudel and may have influenced the Ministry of Fine Arts to cancel their commission. The French government commissioned the Mature Age in 1895, but the commission was cancelled in 1899 before a bronze was cast.
A plaster version of the sculpture was exhibited in 1899 and then cast in bronze privately in 1902. A second private bronze casting was made in 1913, and it is believed that the plaster version was destroyed at that time. The two bronzes can be seen in Paris, the first at the Musée d’Orsay and the second at the Musée Rodin. This version is the second bronze which was cast by Frédéric Carvilhani in 1913 and is exhibited at the Musée Rodin.
Camille Claudel (1864 – 1943) was a French sculptor, who although she died in relative obscurity, has in recent times gained recognition for the originality of her work. She was the co-worker and lover of sculptor Auguste Rodin. The Musée Rodin in Paris has a room dedicated to Claudel’s works.
Claudel started working in Rodin’s workshop around 1884 and became a source of inspiration for him. She acted as his model, his confidante, and his lover. She never lived with Rodin, but the affair agitated her family; as a result, Claudel left the family home. In 1892, after an abortion, Claudel ended the intimate aspect of her relationship with Rodin, although they saw each other regularly until 1898. After Rodin saw Claudel’s The Mature Age for the first time, in 1899, he wholly and suddenly stopped his support for Claudel.
Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel
Auguste Rodin had accepted Camille Claudel as a student in 1884, and she became his associate and lover. Rodin, however, refused to marry her, reluctant to end his long-term relationship with Rose Beuret, mother of his son and later his wife. This complex arrangement and a later abortion caused a separation between Claudel and Rodin in 1892, but they remained in contact until 1898. The last break between them came in 1898 when she created this sculpture.
- What do you think this sculpture depicts?
- Was Auguste Rodin’s reaction understandable?
The Mature Age
- Title: The Mature Age
- French: L’Âge mûr
- Also named: Destiny, The Path of Life or Fatality
- Artist: Camille Claudel
- Year: Modelled in clay 1893; cast in bronze 1913
- Place of Origin: France
- Material: Bronze Casting
- Dimensions: 121 cm × 180 cm × 73 cm (48 in × 71 in × 29 in).
- Museum: Musée Rodin, Paris
- Name: Camille Claudel
- Born: 1864, Fère-en-Tardenois, Aisne, France
- Died: 1943 (aged 78), Montdevergues, Vaucluse, France
- Nationality: French
- Notable work
Explore the Musée Rodin
Explore Paris Museums
- The Louvre
- Musée National du Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny (National Museum of Medieval Art)
- Musée d’Orsay
- Musée Rodin
- Musée Carnavalet
“I invent nothing, I rediscover.”
– Auguste Rodin
Photo Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]; 2) Thibsweb [Public domain]