Conceived in 1884, this example was cast in 1975. The model was never cast during Rodin’s lifetime. In total nine casts of this variation without the pedestal were cast for the Musée Rodin between 1971 and 1976 by the Godard foundry.
The present work is the first maquette for Rodin’s iconic monument The Burghers of Calais. The monument was conceived as homage to the brave citizens of Calais who sacrificed themselves to the invading English forces during the 100-year war.
According to the legend, detailed in Jean Froissart’s Chronicles (1360–65), the King of England Edward III laid siege to Calais during 1346. After 11 months, as starvation gripped the inhabitants of the surrounded city, Edward commanded that they send out six men holding the keys to the city as an acknowledgement of defeat. These men, all of whom held high ranking positions, were then to be executed in order to save the other citizens. Although the burghers were eventually spared, after Philippa of Hainault, the Queen of England, asked her husband to pardon them, it was the original heroism of the act that so moved Rodin.