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The Burghers of Calais

Coordinates: 50°57′8.5″N 1°51′12″E / 50.952361°N 1.85333°E / 50.952361; 1.85333
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The Burghers of Calais
ArtistAuguste Rodin
Dimensions201.6 cm × 205.4 cm × 195.9 cm (79+38 in × 80+78 in × 77+18 in)
LocationCalais, France
Coordinates50°57′8.5″N 1°51′12″E / 50.952361°N 1.85333°E / 50.952361; 1.85333
The Burghers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Burghers of Calais (French: Les Bourgeois de Calais) is a sculpture by Auguste Rodin in twelve original castings and numerous copies. It commemorates an event during the Hundred Years' War, when Calais, a French port on the English Channel, surrendered to the English after an eleven-month siege. The city commissioned Rodin to create the sculpture in 1884 and the work was completed in 1889.[1][2]


In 1346, England's Edward III, after victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais, while Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege, and starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender.[3]

The contemporary chronicler Jean Froissart (c. 1337 – c. 1405) tells a story of what happened next: Edward offered to spare the people of the city if six of its leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded they walk out wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first, and five other burghers joined with him.[4] Saint Pierre led this envoy of volunteers to the city gates. It was this moment, and this poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death which Rodin captured in his sculpture, scaled somewhat larger than life.[5]

According to Froissart's story, the burghers expected to be executed, but their lives were spared by the intervention of England's queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband to exercise mercy by claiming their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child.[4]


The City of Calais had attempted to erect a statue of Eustache de Saint Pierre, eldest of the burghers, since 1845. Two prior artists were prevented from creating the sculpture: David d'Angers by his death, and Auguste Clésinger by the Franco-Prussian War. In 1884 the municipal corporation of the city invited several artists, Rodin amongst them, to submit proposals for the project.[6]

Rodin's design, which included all six figures rather than just de Saint Pierre, was controversial. The public felt that it lacked "overtly heroic antique references" which were considered integral to public sculpture.[1] It was not a pyramidal arrangement and contained no allegorical figures. It was intended to be placed at ground level, rather than on a pedestal. The burghers were not presented in a positive image of glory; instead, they display "pain, anguish and fatalism". To Rodin, this was nevertheless heroic, the heroism of self-sacrifice.[7]

In 1895 the monument was installed in Calais on a large pedestal in front of Parc Richelieu, a public park, contrary to the sculptor's wishes, who wanted contemporary townsfolk to "almost bump into" the figures and feel solidarity with them. Only later was his vision realised, when the sculpture was moved in front of the newly completed town hall of Calais, where it now rests on a much lower base.[8]

Depicted persons[edit]

The six burghers depicted are:[9]


Cast in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Under French law no more than twelve original casts of works of Rodin may be made.[10]

The 1895 cast of the group of six figures still stands in Calais. Other original casts stand at:


  • Plateau (formerly called Rodin Gallery and closed since 2016)[14][15] in Seoul.[16] This is the twelfth and final original cast and was cast in 1995.
Memorial Court, Stanford University[17]

Copies of individual statues are:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Linduff, David G. Wilkins, Bernard Schultz, Katheryn M. (1994). Art past, art present (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall. pp. 454. ISBN 0-13-062084-X.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b "Burghers of Calais". The National Museum of Western Art. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  3. ^ Wagner, John A. (2006b). "Calais, Siege of (1346–1347)". Encyclopedia of the Hundred Years War. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Greenwood. pp. 73–74. ISBN 978-0313327360.
  4. ^ a b Froissart, Jean, Chronicles of England France, Spain, and the adjoining countries, (1805 translation by Thomas Jhones), Book I, Chapter 145
  5. ^ Jiano (1970), pp. 69, 81; Laurent (1989), p. 82
  6. ^ Jianou (1970), p. 69.
  7. ^ Elsen (1963), p. 72; Laurent (1989), p. 82.
  8. ^ Laurent (1989), p. 89.
  9. ^ "Les Bourgeois de Calais". Archives, Pas-de-Calais. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  10. ^ "Original bronze casts". Musée Rodin. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  11. ^ "À Mons, une colossale sculpture de Rodin séjournera pendant plusieurs mois". RTBF. Retrieved 18 May 2024.
  12. ^ Hall, James (2003). "Auguste Rodin, The Burghers of Calais". In Verdi, Richard (ed.). Saved! 100 years of the National Art Collections Fund. Scala. pp. 128–33.
  13. ^ "The Burghers of Calais". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  14. ^ "Welcome – Plateau". plateau.or.kr. Archived from the original on 18 October 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  15. ^ "With restructuring, a debate rages over Samsung's precious art collection". Hankyoreh. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  16. ^ The Burghers of Calais Archived 4 April 2023 at the Wayback Machine, Plateau 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Burghers of Calais, (sculpture)". SIRIS
  18. ^ 35 works by Rodin, 7 by his contemporaries, given to Stanford, Stanford University News Service (13 July 1992)
  19. ^ Rodin! The Complete Stanford Collection, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University
  20. ^ RodinWingGuidebook.pdf (spmoa.shizuoka.shizuoka.jp)
  21. ^ "Auguste Rodin bio profile". Collections Record Listing. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Davidson College Art Galleries". Davidson College Art Galleries. Davidson College. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  23. ^ "Art on the Davidson College Campus". Auguste Rodin – Art on the Davidson College Campus. Davidson College Library. Retrieved 6 April 2007.
  24. ^ "park, skulptur, Mannen med nøklene". oslobilder.no.
  25. ^ Barry, Dan; Rashbaum, William K. (20 May 2002). "Born of Hell, Lost After Inferno; Rodin Work From Trade Center Survived, and Vanished". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved 1 December 2017.


  • Elsen, Albert E. (1963). Rodin. New York: Museum of Modern Art.
  • Jianou, Ionel (1970, transl. Kathleen Muston and Geoffrey Skelding). Rodin. Paris: ARTED.
  • Laurent, Monique (1988, transl. 1989 by Emily Read). Rodin. New York: Konecky & Konecky. ISBN 1-56852-173-1.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]