August Rodin (1840–1917)
bronze, 10.24 x 7.48 in. (26 x 19 cm)
Auguste Rodin’s bronze bust Madame Rodin was owned by Dr. Max Meirowsky (1866-1949), a German-Jewish industrialist and art collector. Having first started his company in 1893/94 in the Ehrenfeld borough of Cologne, it produced insulating material (mica, monazite, and feldspar) for the growing electrical and motor industry. After years of growth, he expanded his own operations to a location in Porz, another borough in Cologne, in 1910 and established Meirowsky AG (Familien-AG). This company was eventually absorbed into Felten & Guilleaume (F&G) when Meirowsky sold his shares and moved to Berlin.
Meirowsky’s art collection included French, German, and Swiss Impressionists and Post-Impressionists works, as well as pieces of Asian art. Due to the increasing persecution of the Jewish community in the 1930s, Meirowsky prepared to emigrate from his home in Berlin to Geneva, Switzerland, via Amsterdam. To finance his flight, he was forced to sell portions of his art collection at a “Jewish auction.” Madame Rodin was Lot 63 at the Berlin auction house H. W. Lange’s November 18, 1938, sale. He left Germany with a small portion of his collection, settling in Geneva, where he lived until his death in 1949.
Meirowsky’s former company in Cologne was Aryanized in 1941 and renamed Dielektra AG. Restitution claims were made to the Federal Republic of Germany for his lost art works, including those he sold through the Lange auction. The whereabouts of Madame Rodin are unknown, and while a similar sculpture was sold at Christie’s New York on June 28, 1988, it is not possible to tell whether the casting was the same as the work sold in Berlin fifty years prior.