French, 1840-1917

Mère et Sa Fille Mourante (Mrs. Merrill et sa fille)

conceived 1908, cast 1926, bronze with green patina
edition of two
signed A. Rodin on base at top right
foundry stamp ALEXIS RUDIER Fondeur Paris on left edge of base verso
height: 29 in., height with base: 34 in., width: 27 in., base: 26 5/8 x 27 5/8 x 4 in.

  • Provenance: Musée Rodin, Paris; cast by the above in 1926 for Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Merrill, Duluth, MN; by descent within the family to the Estate of a Massachusetts Lady.
  • Notes: This haunting work, a portrait of loss and sorrow, was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Merrill of Duluth, Minnesota to memorialize the death of Mrs. Merrill's daughter Sally. Before marrying Mr. Merrill, Elizabeth was married to Charles Miller Croswell, the governor of Michigan from 1877-1881. Tragically, Croswell died three months before Elizabeth gave birth to their daughter Sally in 1887. After Croswell's death, Elizabeth married lumber magnate Thomas D. Merrill and had two more daughters, Marie and Elizabeth. Mrs. Merrill suffered another tragedy when, in 1904, Sally died at the age of 17.

    Mrs. Merrill was bereft at the loss of her eldest daughter, and, in 1908, she commissioned Rodin to sculpt a work in memory of Sally. The Merrills had travelled extensively in Europe and had made Rodin's acquaintance at Meudon on several occasions. Mrs. Merrill traveled to Paris in the fall of 1908 to sit for Rodin as he began work on the memorial sculpture, creating several plaster busts of Sally and Mrs. Merrill that remain in the Musée Rodin's collection. It was during one of these sittings that he presented Mrs. Merrill with a small relief of young Sally's hand, which today can be seen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Upon her return home in December 1908, Mrs. Merrill wrote to Rodin with notes about her wishes for the larger memorial work, including a photograph of her and Sally from when Sally was about six years old. In her letter, she asked Rodin "to reproduce and to make immortal my resemblance and that of my much-loved child."

    Rodin drew inspiration from her words, and the memorial began to take shape: the figures of a mother and child, heads together and hands clasped, emerged from a rough, unfinished block of marble. The composition became much more than a portrait of the Merrill family; rather, it served as a symbol for the all-encompassing strength of maternal love.

    By 1910, Mr. Merrill had sent two deposits for the sculpture, and the Merrills had travelled to Paris to view their work. Mrs. Merrill expressed her admiration for the sculpture, writing to Rodin, "my dream that my child should be immortal has come true." However, for unknown reasons, the marble was never deemed complete, and so it remained in Rodin's studio at the time of his gift to the French state in 1916. By 1920, Mr. Merrill was in correspondence with Léonce Bénédite, the first director of the Musée Rodin to discuss having the marble sent on to him in America. After several years of back-and-forth, Mr. Merrill and Georges Grappe, curator of the Musée Rodin, came to an agreement: the museum would retain the marble sculpture, but would have their foundry cast two bronze examples of the work, and guarantee that no future casts would be made. Furthermore, they would ensure that Mrs. Merrill's name remain attached to the marble, retitling it Mere et sa fille mourante (Mme. Merrill et sa fille).

    The nuanced yet unfailingly cordial negotiations between Merrill and the Musée are recorded in letters and meeting minutes that are held in the Musée Rodin Archives. In 1926, of their recent meeting at the Musée, Mr. Merrill wrote to Mr. Grappe, "you were most kind in receiving us and discussing the various phases of the subject and were good enough to offer to recommend to your board of administrators something as follows: that the marble itself will remain in the muse and that there be inscribed upon it: Mme. Merrill et sa fille. Furthermore that we be furnished two replicas of the marble executed in bronze without expense to us."
    In return, on March 17, 1926, Mr. Grappe replied, "I am pleased to let you know that…the museum will have cast for you two bronze copies, as you wished, of this monument…I hope I have given you the satisfaction which you have so long desired." Mr. Grappe himself selected the dark green patina of the works, and, by July 1, 1926, the Musee Rodin had ordered the Rudier foundry to cast two bronzes from the marble sculpture. Things progressed smoothy – save for a small delay in October when the foundry workers went on strike – and by December 1926 Mr. Grappe was overseeing the release of the bronzes for transport to America, writing to Mr. Merrill, "I am delivering this day to our dispatcher…the two bronzes which were promised to you. I have had the patina taken care of in particular, and I hope that Mrs. Merrill and you will be satisfied. I would be very happy if, when the works have arrived safely, you would kindly let me know your feelings about them."

    Unfortunately, Mrs. Merrill did not have long to enjoy the bronzes once they arrived in America, as she passed away the following year. In response to Mr. Grappe's condolence letter, Mr. Merrill wrote, "I shall always treasure the words of appreciation of my wife's nobility of soul and of her personality which are so beautifully expressed. One of her very treasured memories was of the brief visit at the Musée and the kind and considerate way you met a difficult situation."

    Thus the matter of Mrs. Merrill et sa fille mourante was concluded, with the marble example remaining in the Musée Rodin, to be studied, exhibited, and celebrated as an exemplar of Rodin's final decade, while the bronzes remained with the Merrill family. Upon Mr. Merrill's death in 1932, the two bronzes were passed down to his two daughters, in memory of their late mother and sister, and the present example has been passed down within the three generations of the family since that time.

    Literature [the marble example]:
    - Gsell, Paul, "En Haut de la Colline," L'Art et les Artistes, 1914, p. 20, illus.
    - "Le Musée Rodin," L'Art et les Artistes, 1919, p. 54, illus.
    - Lami, Stanislas, Dictionnaire des Sculpteurs de l'École Française au XIXe siècle, Vol. IV, Paris, 1921: Librarie Ancienne Honoré Champion-Édouard, p. 170.
    - Bénédite, Léonce, Catalogue Sommaire des Oeuvres d'Auguste Rodin et Autres Oeuvres d'Art de la Donation Rodin, Paris, 1921, cat. no. 33 (as Maternité).
    - Bénédite, Léonce, Catalogue Sommaire des Oeuvres d'Auguste Rodin et Autres Oeuvres d'Art de la Donation Rodin, Paris, 1922, cat. no. 33 (as Maternité).
    - Bénédite, Léonce, Catalogue Sommaire des Oeuvres d'Auguste Rodin et Autres Oeuvres d'Art de la Donation Rodin, Paris, 1924, cat. no. 33 (as Maternité).
    - Bénédite, Léonce, Catalogue Sommaire des Oeuvres d'Auguste Rodin et Autres Oeuvres d'Art de la Donation Rodin, Paris, 1926, cat. no. 33., p. 21 (as "Mere et sa Fille mourante (Mrs. Thomas Merrill)").
    - Grappe, Georges, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, 1st edition, Paris, 1927, p. 102, cat. no. 305, (illus).
    - Grappe, Georges, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, 2nd edition, Paris, 1929, cat. no. 342 (illus).
    - Grappe, Georges, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, 3rd edition, Paris, 1931, p. 149, cat. no. 400 (illus).
    - Grappe, Georges, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, 4th edition, Paris, 1938, p. 124-5, cat. no. 329 (illus).
    - Grappe, Georges, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, 5th edition, Paris, 1938, p. 124-5, cat. no. 376 (illus).
    - Aubert, Marcel and Cécile Goldscheider, Le Musée Rodin, H. Laurens Éditeur, Paris, 1956, p. 15
    - Goldschider, Ludwig, Rodin Sculpture, Phaidon, London, 1964, pl. 83, illus.
    - Jianou, Ionel and Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 113
    - Chabrun, Jean-François and Robert Descharnes, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 218, illus.
    - Rheims, Maurice, La Sculpture au xixe siècle, Paris, 1972, p. 140, illus.
    - Tanock, John L. The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1976, p. 338.
    - Fusco, Peter and H.N Janson, The Romantics to Rodin, Los Angeles, 1980, p. 50, illus.
    - Schmoll, Josef A., Rodin-Studien, Munich, 1983, p. 117, illus.
    - Rodin et la Sculpture Contemporaine: Compte-Rendu du Colloque Organisé par le Musée Rodin du 11 au 15 octobre 1982 au Musée Rodin, Éditions du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1983, p. 59.
    - Barbier, Nicole, Marbres de Rodin: Collection du Musée, Éditions du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1987, pp. 82-83, 258, cat. no. 3, illus.
    - Pinet, Hélène, Rodin et ses Modèles: Le Portrait Photographié, Éditions du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1990, pp. 61-65, cat no. 97, illus.
    - Roland, Monique, Auguste Rodin, Profils de l'Art/Chênes, Paris, 1999, p. 154, cat. no. 10, illus.
    - Butler, Ruth, European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century. The Collection of the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 2000, p. 390, fig. 2, illus.
    - Auguste Rodin Eugène Carrière, Éditions du Musée d'Orsay, Paris, 2006, p. 29, 115, cat. no. 57, illus.
    - Rodin: La Fabrique du Portrait, Éditions du Musée Rodin, Paris, 2009, p. 154, cat. no. 39, illus.
    - Rodin, La Chair, Le Marbre, Éditions du Musée Rodin, Paris, 2012, p. 98.

    - Exposition de l'education physiques et des sports, Paris, Faculte de Medecine, 1913, no. 6. [marble]
    - Auguste Rodin, Kunsthalle Basel, 10 April – 4 July 1948, cat. no. 112. [plaster]
    - Rodin et la sculpture contemporaine: Compte-rendu du colloque organisé par le Musée Rodin, October 11 – 15, 1982. [marble]
    - Auguste Rodin / Eugène Carrière, July 11 – October 1, 2006. Musée d'Orsay, cat. No. 57. [marble]
    - Rodin: La fabrique du portrait. April 10 – August 23, 2009, Musee Rodin, April 10 - August 23, 2009. (L'enfant Merrill: cat. nos. 37, 38, 39 [marble and plaster])
  • Condition: Six holes drilled into base (from old mounting). Concrete residue (from old mounting) in spots on edges of base. Wear to patina throughout, consistent with being displayed outdoors for decades. Would benefit from being re-patinaed.

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