Collection of Beethoven bronzes by Antoine Bourdelle come to auction for first time

Art Daily
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Among the sale’s highlights is Beethoven à Deux Mains (Lot 9, $80,000-120,000).
Among the sale’s highlights is Beethoven à Deux Mains (Lot 9, $80,000-120,000).

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- On October 21st, Freeman’s will celebrate Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday by offering a collection of 12 portrait bronzes of the composer by French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, one of the most talented pupils of Auguste Rodin. This one-of-a-kind collection traces his evolution as an artist.

“What better way to celebrate Beethoven’s legacy than through the sculptures of Antoine Bourdelle,” says Freeman’s chairman Alasdair Nichol, “one of the artists who was the most influenced by the music, and overall persona, of the composer.”

Freeman’s will present these bronzes, which have never been on the market before. Collector Robert A. Becker began acquiring them in the early 1970s when he met the artist’s daughter, Rhodia Dufet-Bourdelle, in Paris. She sold Becker and his wife one or two bronzes every year after.

This culminated in the impressive collection Freeman’s is now offering at auction for the first time. Among the sale’s highlights is Beethoven à Deux Mains (Lot 9, $80,000-120,000). The piece portrays Beethoven as the image of a true tormented genius. Seven other bronze casts of this work were made, as well as one granite version, which is in the collection of the Musée Bourdelle in Paris.

Beethoven dit Métropolitain (Lot 7, $20,000-30,000) is another featured bronze. Standing an impressive forty inches high, the sculpture is one of Bourdelle’s most accomplished portraits of Beethoven. This was also the first one ever purchased by the French government (it is now in the Musée D’Orsay).

Meanwhile, both Beethoven, La Joue Appuyée sur une Main (Lot 1, $20,000-30,000) and Beethoven aux Grands Cheveux (Lot 5, $20,000-30,000) emphasize Beethoven’s infamously wild hair. They also remind viewers how influential Bourdelle was in constructing the mythos of Beethoven.

Several works inspired by Beethoven’s original life mask are featured in the sale (see Lot 2, $6,000-10,000; Lot 3, $4,000-6,000; Lot 4, $10,000-15,000). Also of note is La Pathétique (Lot 12, $5,000-8,000). Made in 1929, the year of Bourdelle’s death, it is the very last bronze the artist produced of Beethoven.

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