“No , the French spirit will never live in this German larva, in this beer-filled thing which is at the Salon.” wrote a rival sculptor in the “Revue de Monde Catholique”. Others dubbed Rodin “the Michelangelo of the goiter”. The art world split into factions over his Balzac statue, ” this heap of plaster hacked and punched together,” with its spongelike face, with that vascular gibbosity called a neck.” … The acrimony was enhanced by the polarized battle in the press of 1898 over the Dreyfus affair which pitted progressives and liberals against the status quo, though the Rodin “Balzac” was a more complex issue so the Dreyfus affair seemed to mask its implications.
The revolutionary character of the ‘Monument to Balzac’ was indeed recognized by influential authors and artists, like Anatole France, Léon Daudet, Antonin Proust, Paul Signac, André Fontainas, Claude Bienne and the Belgian poet Georges Rodenbach:
“It is evident that M. Rodin wanted a decisive simplification. He broke with the inane tradition that a statue should be a portrait, an exact effigy. Geniuses are not so much men as monsters. That is what M. Rodin had understood and expressed magnificently, and why he wanted his work to be not so much a statue as a strange monolith, a millenarian menhir, one of those prehistoric stones in which vulcanic action has accidentally produced a human face.” (Georges Rodenbach, L’Élite, Paris 1899, p. 290, quoted by Grunfeld, p. 375) Read More: http://www.rodin-web.org/works/1891_balzac.htm a
The intensity of the passionate reactions may be found more deeply in the subconscious significance of the statue itself. Freud once made a study of Michelangelo’s “Moses” in which he demonstrated that the meaning of the statue was deliberately ambiguous and that behind its gestures were ” concealed all that is most essential and valuable in the comprehension of this work of art” .
Otto Frank’s writings have also provided clues to the significance of “Balzac”which not surprisingly, had a Freud-esque flavor. Monuments to the dead, as Rank wrote in 1924, were not simple tributes and acknowledgments of respect they claimed to be. Rather, their form and function derived from the ancient cairns and tumuli that primitive man placed over their father’s graves. To Rank, this custom of constructing mounds and menhirs was part of the immemorial struggle against the materialized feeling of guilt. The guilt associated with the “primal crime” described in innumerable myths and legends , in which the sons rise against fathers and kill them.( Grunfeld )
These mounds, conceived to keep the dead in their graves, evolved into monolithic sculptured pillars, and finally into heavy stone sarcophagi, surmounted by commemorative sculptures of the deceased. Yet, these civilized burials could not mask the unconscious anxiety: the dead might get itchy and walk about to hunt the living, wreaking vengeance on those who killed them. Rank also points out that such legends are associated with the theme of rebellion against the sexual dominance of the father. Don Juan kills the commander in order to rape the daughter. Read More: http://www.ottorank.com/ a
Grunfeld: It is not too far fetched to suggest that this monument ( Balzac) derives much of its disturbing and enigmatic power from the “primal disquiet” described by Rank, particularly since it depicts as potent a spirit as Balzac, one of the great father figures of French culture. Structurally, as well as symbolically, Rodin’s Balzac is visibly linked to the great tradition of the tumuli and the monoliths. Was it accidental that Rodin chose to symbolize Balzac’s power in this fashion, or that it cost him a seven year struggle to arrive at this extraordinary covert gesture? Rodin scholar Albert Elsen: “What more fitting tribute to Bal#8217;s potency as a creator from the sculptor most obsessed with the life force.”
Did Freud’s imaginative solution to the strange posture of Michelangelo’s Moses stir the world of art history? It did not. Most art histories either treat his thesis as a joke, in the pejorative sense, or make no mention of it. Even the psychoanalyst best known for his interest in Michelangelo, Liebert ( 1983), discounts its “plausibility.” Has Freud’s imaginative reconstruction of Michelangelo’s intentions about the statue, the meanings of his relationship with his alterego Julius II, the ambitions to make the greatest tomb known in Western history, or Freud’s allusions to their complex urges to revolutionize and humanize the Church — have any of these made any difference to colleagues in history, biography, and Renaissance studies? Apparently not. ….Was Freud “right” in his interpretations of Michelangelo’s intentions? I don’t know — who could know what was in the sculptor’s mind? But I think Freud was as “right” as we can expect anyone to be, if only for the fact that no other plausible explanation exists for the statue’s peculiarities….How was “The Moses of Michelangelo” a joke for Freud? It was a private joke, not to be shared. My guess is that despite the worry and pain, he finally prevailed and saw into his fascination: once more he had been doing and undoing the murder of little Julius — a magical infantile fratricide which fronted for fantasies of two others, the crimes of patricide and filicide….
Freud must have felt a shock in once more finding a repeatedly lost insight, and he must have felt something that goes along with once more undoing the repression of a familiar fantasy: wry humor—an awareness of the personal comedy which cohabits with personal tragedy. Freud, by then doomed with cancer, expressed this mixture in “Humour” (1927). In times of peril, a kindly superego reassures the frightened childlike ego that things can’t be quite as bad as they might seem — or as they might in fact be…. Read More: http://www.analysis.com/vs/vs85.html