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Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist by Auguste Rodin

Rodin Museum - Joy of Museums 27

Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist by Auguste Rodin

“Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist” was modelled by Auguste Rodin in 1879 and is just one of multiple depictions of Saint John the Baptist’s image in both full body sculpture and head sculpture.

Rodin described how the idea of Saint John the Baptist’s was inspired by an Italian peasant offered him his services as a model. Rodin stated:

“As soon as I saw him, I was filled with admiration; this rough, hairy man expressed violence in his bearing… yet also the mystical character of his race. I immediately thought of a Saint John the Baptist, in other words, a man of nature, a visionary, a believer, a precursor who came to announce one greater than himself. …. I immediately resolved to model what I had seen.” 

Auguste Rodin is generally considered the father of modern sculpture; he possessed a unique ability to model a complex and deeply pocketed surface in clay. Many of his most notable sculptures were criticised during his lifetime. Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, he modelled the human body with realism and with personal character and physicality. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist and remains one of the few sculptors widely known outside the arts community.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist was a Jewish preacher in the early first century AD, who is revered as a major religious figure in Christianity. John used baptism as the central symbol of his movement and most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus. Some scholars believe that John was influenced by the semi-ascetic Essenes, who practised rituals corresponding strongly with baptism.

John the Baptist is mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus and according to the New Testament, John anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself. John was sentenced to death and then beheaded by Herod Antipas sometime between 28 and 36 AD after John rebuked him for divorcing his wife and unlawfully taking the wife of his brother.

Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist

  • Title:                     Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist
  • Artist:                   Auguste Rodin
  • Year:                     Modelled in clay 1879; cast in bronze 1886
  • Place of Origin:   France
  • Material:              Bronze Casting
  • Dimensions:        21 1/2 × 20 3/4 × 15 3/16 inches (54.6 × 52.7 × 38.6 cm)
  • Museum:              Rodin Museum, Philadelphia

Auguste Rodin

  • Artist:               François-Auguste-René Rodin
  • Born:                1840 – Paris, France
  • Died:                 1917 (aged 77) – Meudon, France
  • Nationality:     French
  • Notable work:

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“I invent nothing, I rediscover.” 
– Auguste Rodin

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Photo Credit: GM