The Age of Bronze was the first-ever life-size work executed by Auguste Rodin, profoundly marking the career of the master.
Rodin sculpted the work in Belgium, having returned from a trip to Italy in 1875. The piece is indebted to Rodin’s encounter with the Renaissance masters, and particularly to the work of Michelangelo. The apparent lack of a ‘theme’ for the sculpture relates to the sculptor’s desire to engage with the same theme of the great Italian and ancient masters: the inspection, analysis and depiction of beauty – male beauty, in this instance.
When Rodin exhibited the work in 1877, the quality of the modelling was such that he was accused of having cast it directly from life - in other words, of taking a mould of a living human body and casting it in bronze. Indeed, Rodin had to enlist the help of the Belgian soldier, Auguste Neyt, who sat as his model and who gave evidence on Rodin’s behalf that the work was modelled not moulded.