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Rodin - The Kiss (Tate Modern # 9)

Edward Perry Warren's commission

In 1900, Rodin made a copy for Edward Perry Warren, an eccentric American collector who lived in Lewes in Sussex, England, with his collection of Greek antiquities and his lover John Marshall. After seeing The Kiss in the Salon de Paris, the painter William Rothenstein recommended it to Warren as a possible purchase, but The Kiss had been commissioned by the French government and was not available for sale. In its place, Rodin offered to make a copy and Warren offered half of its original price (10,000 francs, instead of 20,000), but Rodin would not lower the price. The contract for the commission included that "the genitals of the man must be complete." A previous letter explained that "being a pagan and lover of antiquities", Warren hoped that the genitals of the man would be sculpted prominently in the Classical Greek tradition rather than modestly hidden.

When the sculpture arrived in Lewes in 1904, Warren placed it in the stables where it remained for a decade. It is not known whether this location was chosen due to the great size of the sculpture or because it did not fulfil Warren's expectations. In 1914 the sculpture was loaned to the Lewes town council and put on public display in the town hall. A number of puritanical local residents, led by headmistress Miss Fowler-Tutt, objected to the erotic nature of the sculpture. They were particularly concerned that it might encourage the ardour of the large number of soldiers who were billeted in the town at that time and successfully campaigned to have the sculpture draped and screened from public view. It was returned to Warren's residence at Lewes House in 1917 where it remained stored in a stable for 12 years until Warren's death in 1929. The beneficiary of Warren's will, H. Asa Thomas, put the sculpture up for sale with Gorringes, the local auctioneers, but it failed to meet its reserve price and was withdrawn from sale. A few years later it was loaned to the Tate Gallery in London. In 1955 the Tate bought the sculpture for the nation at a cost of £7,500. In 1999 between June 5 and October 30, The Kiss returned briefly to Lewes as part of an exhibition of Rodin's works. It now resides at the Tate Modern.

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Taken on May 27, 2007