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Rodin Sculptures, Long in Basement, Dusted Off for New Exhibit

April 8, 1987

PARIS (AP) _ More than 100 of French master Auguste Rodin’s marble sculptures, resurrected from basement storage rooms and dusted off for the first time in nearly half a century, went on display Wednesday.

The exhibition, which runs through Aug. 31, includes the Rodin Museum’s complete collection as well as 10 ″fake Rodins″ by a little-known French sculptor who had hoped to cash in on Rodin’s growing fame.

When the case came to trial in 1919, the artist, known as Jonchery, confessed that he had been in financial straits and had sought help from Rodin’s ″collaborators.″

The highly publicized case drew attention to Rodin’s habit of having ″practitioners″ do some of the heavy work. His reputation suffered as a result of the disclosure, and some critics wondered just how many of the marble sculpture were really his own.

″Rodin was extremely prolific, but since he had so many commissions, we know that he hired technicians to do much of the less interesting manual labor,″ said Nicole Barbier, a curator at the musuem and author of the show’s handsome catalogue.

Rodin worked first in clay, then in plaster before having his helpers transpose the forms to marble.

″But he was definitely the creative genius. He supervised everything, stopping workers at certain points, and doing the rest himself,″ she said.

Many of the works on display have not been out of storage for nearly 50 years because they were considered unfinished.

For Mrs. Barbier, who spent two years studying the pieces and establishing their chronology, they show ″the evolution of Rodin’s unique style.″

″The show looks at Rodin with 20th century eyes,″ she said. ″What we see are aspects never understood before, such as his attention to light and shadow, his obssession with space and the subject’s relation to it rather than the desire to make the figures look exactly like real-life people.″

Many figures look as though they are struggling to break out of the marble. ″La Centauresse,″ (1901-1904) is a half-human horse, its belly fused to marble chunks forming the base, its outstretched arms blending into an uncut column.

In ″Paolo and Francesca″ (1905), one of the show’s highlights, the figures are dominated by the stone, their faces barely chiseled.

″What we know now is that that’s the effect Rodin wanted to achieve,″ Mrs. Barbier said.

Besides many of Rodin’s best-known works such as ″The Kiss,″ the exhibition also features many smaller pieces found recently in storage cellars of Rodin’s home in Meudon.

″La Petite Mousquetaire″ (1879), for example, showing a young man with a handlebar mustache wearing a uniform, his long curls tucked under a three- cornered hat, is typical of early work Rodin did just to make a living.

Mrs. Barbier said the hardest part of getting the show ready was cleaning the sculpture.

″Regular house dust was easy to remove,″ she said. ″The hard part was getting off the finger marks left by sweaty visitors who couldn’t resist running their hands over the sensuous statues.″

Her solution, which she hopes to implement in the coming weeks, is to provide visitors with cotton gloves.

″Then they can touch all they want,″ she said.

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