Auguste Rodin Bust Found in Madison, NJ

Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos, Staff Writer

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Reading the title, many might be wondering who is Auguste Rodin. Auguste Rodin is one of the most famous sculptors of all time and, in fact, if you look up famous sculptors on, his name will be the first to appear. Rodin was a French man who was born and raised in Paris to relatively poor parents who showed little interest in their son’s education. Auguste Rodin was mainly a self-taught sculptor, but he did also attend an Art school in Paris for a short period of time. His major sculptures include Le Penseur (The Thinker), The Gates of Hell, and The Kiss which are all on display at the estate where he died in Meudon, Paris which has been transformed into an exceptional museum. The Gates of Hell alone is a massive 6 meter high (19.7 feet) centerpiece depicting Rodin’s interpretation of Dante’s Inferno with individually carved and molded figures that range from a variety of sizes. Having visited the museum, I can personally say it is one of the most exquisite art museums in all of Paris. At the time I visited the museum (2015; during which most of it was closed due to renovations to the main edifice), myself and many others in New Jersey were unaware of the fact that we had a Rodin piece so close to home here in New Jersey. Last week, it was confirmed that a bust of Napoleon Bonaparte that was exhibited in a building (Hartley Dodge Memorial) that serves as the town of Madison’s town hall was indeed sculpted by the masterful hands of Auguste Rodin. After months of speculation on the bust’s authenticity, the town worker hired to create a photographic archive of artwork displayed in municipal buildings was surprised to find a statue of this caliber hidden in a corner of the council’s chamber. After a Rodin expert appraised it at 4-12 million dollars, there was a unanimous decision made that this statue is too special to be in a suburban New Jersey town’s town hall, and it was relocated to the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia where it will be exposed to the world of tourism, something that the statue has never seen before. Madison native and Oratory Prep student, Robert Williams said, “when I found out that this expensive piece of artwork was found in a small town like Madison I was shocked. I didn’t know that there could be artwork from such a well-known artist in my town.” Interestingly enough, this Madison council’s chamber also contains a desk that belonged to Abraham Lincoln and various intricate portraits of our founding fathers, and after the discovery of such a valuable piece of art, I am sure that the Madison community is probably considering the potential options for this space to become a museum itself. This contemporary Rodin statue of Napoleon Bonaparte is an interesting facet of history that was hiding in plain sight. This makes me wonder what other historic and valuable artifacts are yet to be discovered in the depths of our society?

Photo Credits to the Hartley Dodge Foundation