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The River Rhine Separating the Waters, 1765

Clodion (Claude Michel), French

One of the outstanding sculptors of his age, Claude Michel, better known as Clodion, is today most admired for his small-scale terracottas. In this example, with its roiling, horizontally extended figure of the Rhine, the mighty river god’s feat in separating the waters is registered in the taut and rippled muscles of his arms, neck, torso, and thighs. His beard undulating like the water he personifies, he grips the mouth of the urn, causing the water to flow in two streams. The subject derives from the Roman historian Tacitus’s Germania (A.D. 98) and alludes to the Rhine dividing the territory of the Gauls on the west bank from that of the Germans to the east.

Clodion spent most of the 1760s at the French Academy in Rome, where he studied antique sculpture, Michelangelo, and especially Bernini. This figure of the Rhine owes a particular debt to Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain in the Piazza Navona.



Possibly in the artist’s collection, Paris.

Private collection, Switzerland;

(Visual Art Co., Ltd., S.A., Switzerland);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1984.

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