Rodin’s “Fall of Illusion: Sister of Icarus”

Auguste Rodin. L’Illusion soeur d’Icare. 1895. Musée Rodin, Paris. [Photo by Dave Rytell]

This sculpture beguiled me when I saw it at the Musée Rodin. I so much wanted to touch her wing. It was marble but it looked like a living thing. It had the delicacy of feathers, the muscularity of pulsing blood, the soaring lift and resistance of a sail in the wind. It wasn’t the invention of D aedalus or Leonardo. It must have come from an angel, a condor, a clipper ship’s flying jib. And her body emerging from marble, plunging in free fall, legs akimbo, at once defying gravity while surrendering to it. And her breasts. This was not the mythical Icarus, but his sister apprehended in a dream.

I mentioned this sculpture in A Gavroche Retrospective, where I wrote about the surreal scene inside the Elephant in Place de la Bastille in Les Misérables IV.6.1-2. Victor Hugo and Rodin were proto- Surrealists long before Surrealism was a manifesto or a movement. The poets and artists we call Surrealists were descendants, not originals.

As often as not, the sculpture is identified as Icarus, not his sister. The full title is “Fall of Illusion - Sister of Icarus” (in French, L’Illusion soeur d’Icare). As the Rodin’s Works website explains, the sculptor created multiple variations on the theme. I haven’t found a definitive catalog reference or photograph of it, but there are several good Flickr images such as that linked here.

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