Monument to Honore de Balzac in Paris


The bronze statue of the classic of French and world literature, Honoré de Balzac, at the Vavines intersection was the subject of heated debate for four decades before it found its rightful place in the center of Paris.

In search of truth

In 1890, the Société des Gens de Lettres (Société des Gens de Lettres) decided to perpetuate the memory of the outstanding writer. His management initially approached the sculptor Henri Chal with a proposal to create the monument, but he did not manage to complete the model until his death in 1891. His work was continued by Marc de Vasselo, but the bust he created did not meet the requirements of the customer.

In 1891, the head of the Society of Writers, Emile Zola, proposed the creation of a monument to Honore de Balzac Auguste Rodin. The sculptor accepted the offer, but before starting work he devoted many days to studying the character of the writer. Having abandoned the obvious portrait likeness, he chose to focus on the emotions and the inner world of the writer.

In search of the necessary material, O. Rodin visited the birthplace of Balzac, the city of Tours, where he met acquaintances of the writer, re-read his works of art, diaries, letters and memoirs of his contemporaries. Inviting models similar to the writer for posing, the sculptor first created a naked statue of Balzac and only then dressed him in clothes. He even ordered the exact same cloak from the writer’s tailor to more reliably depict his image in a plaster model.

In 1898, O. Rodin presented his work to the public at an exhibition at the Salon of Fine Arts. The reaction of the Society of Writers to his work was extremely negative. In Parisian newspapers, the statue was compared to a sack of coal, a seal, a snowman, and cartoons that were offensive to the author were published. The project of the monument proposed by Rodin was called the sculptor's most unsuccessful work and was categorically rejected.

It is interesting to read:  Hotel Lambert in Paris

After a scandal in the press, the sculpture was for several decades on the territory of the villa of O. Rodin in Meudon. In Paris, at the intersection of boulevards Raspail and Montparnasse, the bronze figure of the writer was installed only on June 1, 1939.

The embodied plan

Auguste Rodin portrayed Honore de Balzac standing in full growth and tightly wrapped in a spacious robe, symbolizing the hard work of the writer-philosopher. The main thing in the image he created is not the ideal external resemblance, but the facial expression and gaze of the writer, reflecting his inner mood. The sculptor in his work strove to convey the spirit of a great man, his and vitality.

The three-meter figure of the writer looks like a monolith striving to the top and is a clear metaphor for the writer's creative energy and genius. According to the son of the writer Alphonse Daudet, Leon, “Balzac” by Auguste Rodin “… frees himself from his literary captivity, from his sentimental and family disappointments, in order to finally plunge into his dream. This is a man, seized with hallucinations, almost agonizing, looking immortality straight in the eyes. "

Getting there

Address: 136 Boulevard Raspail, Paris 75006
Metro: Vavin, Notre-Dame des Champs
Bus: Vavin