L'Eternel Printemps (Eternal Springtime) is one of Rodin's most admired sculptures. The allegorical theme of the embracing lovers brings to mind the story of Paolo and Francesca, Dante's mythical lovers who were condemned to spend eternity locked in a tumult of passion.
Its expressive force owes much to the growing relationship between the sculptor and his student and lover Camille Claudel. Rodin thought to integrate this remarkable composition into his project La porte de l'Enfer (The doors of Hell), begun in 1880. However, he changed his mind given the erotic tone of the work. The female figure of the group is based on Rodin's sensuous Torse d'Adèle (named after Adèle Abbruzzesi, one of Rodin's favorited Italian models), which appears in the top left corner of the tympanum of La porte de l'Enfer.
Rodin later claimed that the idea for the present bronze came to him while listening to Beethoven's Second Symphony. He confided to Jeanne Russell, the daughter of the Australian painter John Russell: "God, how [Beethoven] must have suffered to write that! And yet, it was while listening to it for the first time that I pictured Eternal Springtime, just as I have modelled it since.". Also titled Zéphyr et la Terre and Cupidon et Psyché (both mythological titles intended to justify the eroticism of the subject), the group was exhibited at the Salon of 1897. Due to its popularity, Rodin executed our second version of Eternel printemps, with an extended base and a rocky outcrop to support the left arm and outstretched leg of the male figure.
Eternel Printemps was cast in bronze by F. Barbedienne and sold in four different sizes known as No. 1, our sculpture (H: 65.5 cm,), No. 2 (H: 50 cm,), No. 3 (H: 40 cm,) and No. 4 (H: 25 cm). Barbedienne's foundry stamp is an important indication that the bronze sculpture was a lifetime cast, between 1910 and 1914.