What is commonly referred to as ugliness in Nature can in Art become a great beauty. […] In fact, in Art only that which has Character is beautiful. Character is the intense truth of any natural spectacle, be it beautiful or ugly […] - Auguste Rodin, L’Art: Entretiens Réunis par Paul Gsell (Paris, 1911), pp. 46,51.
Rodin considered this portrait to be his earliest major work and described it as his first exceptional piece of modelling. He began the portrait in 1863, intending to submit it to the Paris Salon as his debut sculpture. The following year The Man With The Broken Nose became The Mask Of The Man With The Broken Nose when the cold conditions in Rodin’s studio caused the back of the head to freeze and break off overnight. Rodin, embracing the element of chance, wanted to exhibit the portrait bust as it was, however he continued to return to work on it for over a year, before submitting it to the Salon. Much to his disappointment, the Salon rejected the work in 1864 and again in 1865, unable to accept, what they considered to be, a fragmentary model by an unknown sculptor.