A plaster model of monument for the Belgian poet Georges Rodenbach by George Minne, €57,000 (£49,565) at Lempertz.

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Figures by the Belgian sculptor George Minne (1866-1941), who in his day was as celebrated as Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol, were much in demand in recent sales.

At two auctions in Cologne and Berlin, bidders from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium joined in the fray, with the latter leading the field in all cases.

In 1902, the artist was commissioned with the creation of a monument for the Belgian poet Georges Rodenbach who had died young in 1898. The Société des Artistes et Ecrivains français had hoped that the monument would be erected in Bruges, but the authorities there rejected the idea and a place was finally found in Ghent.

On December 2, Lempertz (26% buyer’s premium) in Cologne offered a (81cm) wide plaster model of Minne’s successful design, which was executed in marble in 1903. The model had been in a German collection since the 1980s and the auctioneers expected to achieve at least €15,000. However, the result was €57,000 (£49,565).

Fine figures

On the same day, Bassenge (29% buyer’s premium) in Berlin was able to offer several further works by Minne. They came from the collection of a local gallery owner.


A plaster model Jüngling I (Adolescent) by Minne, €34,000 (£29,565) at Bassenge and, right, his plaster model of a kneeling youth from La fontaine aux agenouillés, €20,000 (£17,390).

The 17in (43cm) high plaster model Jüngling I (Adolescent), executed in 1891, was in the catalogue at €8000. A flurry of bids pushed the price up to €34,000 (£29,565).

The corresponding bronze figure of Jüngling I, one of six cast by F Herweg in Berlin, sold for €3600 (£3130), more than double the guide.

Fountain of youths

The third figure, another plaster model, was associated with Minne’s most famous work, La fontaine aux agenouillés, a fountain surrounded by five kneeling naked youths, which in 1896 Karl Ernst Osthaus commissioned for the foyer of the Folkwang Museum he was to found in Hagen in the Rhineland several years later.

Minne executed this fountain in marble. Other versions were cast in bronze and are located in Brussels and Ghent.

After the death of Osthaus in 1921, the inventory from Hagen was transferred to Essen where a new Folkwang Museum came into being. Since then, Minne’s fountain can be seen there.

Over the years, Minne created several versions of the kneeling figures in plaster, bronze, marble and stone; the exact number is unknown, but is thought to be less than 10.

Of these, the plaster figures are the rarest, a fact not lost on the bidders. The figure in Berlin was 2ft 7in (80cm) high and was given a starting price of €5000. It was knocked down to a Belgian buyer for €20,000 (£17,390).

£1 = €1.15