Friday, September 17, 2010

Art and the Opera: Auguste Rodin's Sculpture Eustache de Saint Pierre

Eustache de Saint Pierre by August Rodin
I braved heavy rains to attend yesterday's unveiling of Auguste Rodin's bronze sculpture Eustache de Saint Pierre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.  On loan from the Art Gallery of Ontario to the Canadian Opera Company, the sculpture is positioned on the first landing of the grand staircase to best capture the light.

This 7 foot sculpture is one of Rodin's most important works and deals with imminent death, heroism and martyrdom. Created by Rodin in 1887 and cast in 1987, the sculpture was commissioned to commemorate an important incident which happened in Calais during the Hundred Years' War. In 1347, the English had blocked the French port for more than a year. The people of Calias were facing starvation and were forced to surrender. The King of England offered to spare the townfolk of any of six of the town leaders would offer themselves up for execution. The first to volunteer was Eustace de Saint Pierre and others soon followed his lead. In the end, the men were spared because the pregnant Queen persuaded her husband to have sympathy on the men as she believed their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn baby.

On hand to supervise the installation and to answer questions were Michael Parke-Taylor, Curator of Modern Art and Margaret Haupt, Deputy Director, Collections Management and Conservation. In this photo, you get a sense of the sculpture's monumental scale.

Michael Parke-Taylor and Margaret Haupt and the Rodin sculpture

This sculpture, cast #6 of 8, was donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1992 by Joey and Toby Tanenbaum and has been in storage for several years during the recent renovation. It will be on display at the Four Seasons Centre for two years. If you have the opportunity to see it, look closely at the scale of the hands and feet. The slightly exaggerated size relative to the rest of the body conveys power and pathos. If you are walking or driving by Queen and University, look for the sculpture in the south-east corner of the building. During the COC season, the building itself becomes an art-installation with the audience playing the part of living sculpture pre-and-post-performance and during intermissions.

Photos by: Ingrid Mida 2010