Philadelphia Museum of Art commemorates Rodin death centennial (and shows off that bust that turned up in N.J. town hall)

An unidentified woman photographs a copy of Rodin’s “The Kiss” at the Rodin Museum. The museum unveiled a new exhibition around the theme of passionate embrace early in 2017. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

A ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Auguste Rodin, the French artist who gave birth to modernist sculpture, will take place at the Rodin Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 9:15 a.m. Friday, the exact day of the artist’s death in 1917 at 77.

The museum, which opened in 1929, is filled almost exclusively with the collection of movie mogul Jules E. Mastbaum, who died in 1926 — a devout Rodin enthusiast who gave the roughly 140 pieces in his collection to the city.

Rodin’s famous  freestanding The Thinker (1902) greets visitors as they approach the small beaux-arts museum designed by Paul Crét and Jacque Gréber.

Other well-known works, such as The Burghers of Calais (1889) and The Monument to Balzac (1891), are featured in the collection, the largest gathering of Rodins outside France. The monumental sculptural group The Gates of Hell, which Rodin began in 1880 and reworked and expanded for the rest of his life, rises on the building’s Parkway façade.

Currently on view inside is an exhibition organized around Rodin’s intense sculpture The Kiss (1889). The exhibition, which opened in February, commemorates the centennial of the artist’s death, now being observed by museums around the world.

In addition, the Rodin museum has received a loan from the Cantor Foundation of The Waltz (1888-1895),  by sculptor Camille Claudel, an important artist largely known as Rodin’s passionate lover; in recent decades, her artistic reputation has risen sharply.

Camera icon Janet Foster
Jerome LeBlay, a Rodin expert form Paris, and Mallory Mortillaro, curator for the Hartley Dodge memorial, with the Rodin bust of Napoleon recently discovered in council chambers in Madison, N.J.

Another new Rodin loan, a bust of Napoleon — Napoleon enveloppé dans ses réves, or Napoleon wrapped in his dreams — has been installed in the main museum building. The bust was recently discovered in the city council chambers of Madison, N.J. where it had resided for 75 years in complete anonymity until a Drew University graduate student unmasked it.

The Hartley Dodge Memorial, steward of  the historic Madison building, has lent the bust to the art museum. It arrived in the last few weeks and now resides in Gallery 155 with Rodin’s John the Baptist Preaching and Helmet-Maker’s Wife.

Friday’s ceremony will be attended by Michael Scullin, honorary French consul; officials from the Cantor Foundation and the Hartley Dodge Memorial; as well as Gail Harrity, Art Museum president and chief operating officer; and other museum curators and officials.

Remarks will be made. Rodin will be honored with a moment of silence.