Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant (work of art)
Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- 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.
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
Resources for Teachers:
- Read a step-by-step description of the lost-wax casting process that Rodin used to create his sculptures.
- Review a lesson plan on expressive portraiture.
- Read Auguste Rodin’s biography and see more of his sculptures.
Resources for Students:
- Watch a video to discover what inspired Rodin and how he challenged traditional ideas about beauty.
- View another Rodin sculpture of Pierre de Wissant.
- View a similar sculpture at the Cleveland Museum of Art.