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Auguste Rodin, 'Femme nue debout vers la droite (Naked woman standing to the right),' which sold for $95,000 ($121,600 with buyer's premium) at Bonhams Skinner.

Rodin drawing of a female nude soared to $121K at Bonhams

MARLBOROUGH, MA – A drawing by Auguste Rodin dated to 1900 was offered at Bonhams Skinner with a modest $7,000-$9,000 estimate as part of its European Art sale on May 22. Bids started at just $3,200 but quickly escalated to a completely unexpected hammer price of $95,000, selling for $121,600 with buyer’s premium. Complete sale results can be found at LiveAuctioneers.

Femme nue debout vers la droite (Naked woman standing to the right) was a 1900 study by Rodin (1840-1917), considered by many to be the father of modern sculpture. This drawing served as a study for a possible sculpted work, and it carries a compelling backstory that no doubt helped drive the frenzied bidding.

As Bonhams Skinner attested in the lot’s notes, it is possible that Rodin gave this drawing to Armand Dayot in 1915, as suggested by a letter of thanks dated July 20, 1915 and written by Dayot’s wife, which has been preserved in the archives of the Rodin Museum in Paris. A longtime friend of Rodin, Dayot was still very close to the sculptor in his final years.

Femme nue debout vers la droite is a great example of Rodin’s mature style. It began as a sketch from life that was ultimately transformed into a masterful drawing. The subtle use of wash mixed with watercolor over the woman’s body and the network of dense hatching covering the right portion of the sheet are particularly impressive. He drew it à l’aveugle, a method that has the artist keep his eyes trained on the model while his hands work independently to capture the ‘flow of his impressions, passing from his eye to his hand’. Later, Rodin transposed the sketch onto quality paper, and the final watercolor retains the spontaneity of the initial sketch, as seen in the freeness of the woman’s face.