Allegorical renaissance

In Lithuanian sculptor Jacques Lipchitz’s The Rape of Europa series, a bull—the god Jupiter in disguise—drags maiden Europa to Crete and has his way with her. The second piece in the collection, featured in the Smart Museum’s exhibition Revisions: Modernist Sculpture by Rodin, Lipchitz, and Moore, shows Europa resistant yet clinging to the bull’s neck. By the artist’s third and last iteration of the Greek tale, created at the height of World War II, the allegory had become political commentary; Europa, representing Europe, stabs the bull, representing Hitler, with a dagger.

The Smart piece is one of a handful in the exhibit that demonstrates how Lipchitz, Auguste Rodin, and Henry Moore reintroduced allegory, a popular art technique during Renaissance and Baroque Europe. Divided into four themes—reclining female form, heroic male nude, sculptural fragment, and allegory—the exhibit shows how these three early modernists updated classical forms and also informed each others’ work. In the heroic male nude section, Rodin’s Le Penseur (The Thinker) sits near Lipchitz’s cubist bronze Seated Man, which the exhibit notes cite as an “intended homage” to Rodin’s sculpture. Comparing the two works, the first created in 1880, the second some 30 years later, illustrates an evolution not only in sculpture but also in man’s mental state. Though Lipchitz’s modern figure has its chin poised on the hand as in the 1880 Rodin, Seated Man slumps over in resignation, replacing The Thinker’s strong, quiet contemplation.


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Photos (left to right): Jacques Lipchitz, Reclining Figure, 1928, Cast bronze; Henry Moore, Sketch Model for Reclining Figure, 1945, Unglazed modeled terracotta; Auguste Rodin, Reclining Figure (Study for Danaid), c. 1885 (model, Musée Rodin, cast 1969), Cast Bronze. All three sculptures are from the Smart Museum's Joel Starrels Jr. Memorial Collection.

June 16, 2006