Iris, Messenger of the Gods

Artist: Auguste Rodin (French, Paris 1840–1917 Meudon)

Founder: Cast by Alexis Rudier (French)

Date: modeled ca. 1890, cast 1965

Culture: French

Medium: Bronze, on a black marble base

Dimensions: H. w/base: 19-1/16 in. (48.4 cm.); H. w/o base: 17-1/2 in. (44.5 cm.); W. 16-3/8 in. (41.6 cm.); D. 9 in. (22.9 cm.)

Classification: Sculpture-Bronze

Credit Line: Gift of Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 1984

Accession Number: 1984.364.7


In a letter of December 28, 1890, Rodin mentioned that his new model for the second version of the Monument to Victor Hugo, also called The Apotheosis of Victor Hugo, would include a figure of Iris supported by a cloud. In the model, the figure is more or less complete; supplied with wings, it hovers, head down, above the standing figure of Hugo.

When in 1900 Rodin assembled a retrospective exhibition of sculpture and drawings in his own pavilion on the Place de l'Alma in Paris, he presented the figure of Iris as Another Voice, Called Iris (Autre voix, dit Iris). In the catalogue of a recent re-creation of the 1900 exhibition, Antoinette Le Normand-Romain noted that a cast of the reworked figure was to be seen in a photograph taken about 1896 or 1898. Rodin had detached it from the Monument to Victor Hugo, removed the wings, head, and one arm, and lifted the right leg high in the air.

While the extraction of a figure from a larger group or composition was a continuation of the working method begun with The Gates of Hell, the Iris was considerably more daring than the sculptures derived from The Gates. Now, Rodin was subtracting body parts as well, and in the new position of the leg, he was deliberately directing the eye of the viewer to the figure's genitals.