Two people – a man and a woman – are locked in a passionate embrace. The man is seated on a tree stump and bends down toward the reclining woman, who meets him in a kiss. The almost life-size figures have been placed in a pyramidal composition on an oval plinth that invites the viewer to follow the movement around the sculpture. Realistic details, such as the wrinkled soles and rippling muscles, enhance the sense of physical presence.
The man’s genitalia are obscured by an animal skin that is loosely draped around his right hip. The artist could have opted for another type of “fig leaf” here: for example, a classical drapery would have harked back to Greco-Roman antiquity and its artistic ideals, while foliage would have alluded to the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. The animal skin, however, refers to a mythical, “primitive” past – the man and woman in the sculpture meet each other in natural simplicity and sincerity and as equals in their love.
The sculpture won the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. The National Museum’s bronze version was commissioned in 1893 and purchased the year after.
Stephan Sinding hailed from an artistic family in Norway: his wife was an actress, and his siblings and cousins included several painters and a composer. He worked and studied early on in Berlin, Paris, and Rome, with Auguste Rodin’s sculptures serving as a catalyst for his artistic development. In 1883 he settled in Copenhagen, eventually becoming a Danish citizen, before moving to Paris in 1910.
Sinding created several public sculptures: such as Ole Bull in Bergen and Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in Kristiania.
Text: Mai Britt Guleng
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0