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Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant (work of art)

Artwork Info

Modeled about 1884, enlarged about 1909 (cast 1980)
Auguste Rodin
32 x 19 x 20 1/2 inches (81.3 x 48.3 x 52.1 centimeters)


Gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 2009

Object Number
European French
European to 1910

Key Ideas

  • Auguste Rodin was an innovative sculptor who was influenced by classical Greco-Roman traditions of sculpting as well as psychology.
  • This “portrait head” sculpture was cast in bronze. The high copper content of bronze makes it turn green when it is left outdoors. 
  • Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant is almost three times the size of a human head. It depicts one of the six figures featured in The Burghers of Calais, Rodin’s large public monument. 
  • Pierre de Wissant was one of six men who volunteered as a prisoner to save the French city of Calais from English occupation in 1347. The pained facial expression of this sculpture shows his feelings of extreme distress. 

Learn More

This larger-than-life portrait head (nearly three times the size of a human head) depicts one of the figures featured in Rodin’s public monument, The Burghers of Calais. The subject of this sculpture is a man named Pierre de Wissant. He was one of six French men who volunteered to be taken prisoner by the English, in exchange for freeing the city of Calais during the Hundred Years War (1337 to 1453). The unusual base of the sculpture emphasizes the tilt of the man’s head. It also draws attention to his pained facial expression, which shows his distressed mental and emotional state as he waits to be executed.

Rodin used a “stand-in” live model to create this sculpture because Pierre de Wissant lived hundreds of years before the artist was born. Pierre de Wissant was a recurring figure in Rodin’s sculptural work.

tags: emotions, conflict, impact, interdependence, perspective, power, texture

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  • A bronze sculpture of a man’s head that is tilted to one side. He is looking down, with his eyes nearly closed and his mouth slightly open. His pained facial expression makes him appear to be in distress.

    Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant