Bid for the biggest Mahler bargain in memory

Bid for the biggest Mahler bargain in memory


norman lebrecht

December 13, 2022

A copy of the Auguste Rodin bust of Gustav Mahler is on sale this afternoon at an auction at Hotel Drouot in Paris.

The guide price is just 20-30,000 Euros (about the same in $, maybe 10% more in £).

That seems ridiculously low, the more so since this copy of the bust was formerly owned by the former president of France, Valery Giscard D’estaing, whose widow is downsizing. Giscard appears to have bought it from the composer’s daughter, Anna Mahler, around 1973

Rodin made the original bust in 1909, at Alma’s commission, for Gustav Mahler’s 50th birthday the following year. Mahler was originally ambivalent about sitting for the great sculptor and cancelled their appointment three times, as was his way. But he came to enjoy the sessions and to appreciate the outcome.

Rodin, as was his way, had his assistant make 10 copies of two casts of the bust, known as A and B. The one on sale is a B cast, slightly less valuable, but nonetheless an outstanding likeness of Mahler by the greatest sculptor of his time.

As far as value goes, I have only seen four copies, one at the Vienna State Opera, one at Henry-Louis de La Grange’s museum in Paris, one belonging to my friend Gilbert Kaplan and a fourth, I think, in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

To own one for thirty grand seems like…. well, I’m checking available funds.

UPDATE: It sold for 115,000€, plus 28% auction tax.
Not cheap, but who knows when another copy will come on the market?


  • doge says:

    Intrigued by this Henry-Louis de la Grange museum in Paris. Where is it? Can it be visited?

  • Igor says:

    Theres also one at the Belvedere in Vienna.

  • Rich C. says:

    Four copies, so where is the original?

  • Gawan 1882 says:

    Just sold for 110.000 €

  • Gawan 1882 says:

    Sorry … even 115.000 €

  • Vincent Mouret says:

    The correct spelling is Valéry Giscard d’Estaing

  • Peter says:

    there’s also a Mahler bust by Rodin at National Gallery of Art Washington DC donated by Bruno Walter’s daughter

  • Peter says:

    …and another in the collection of Met Museum, New York

  • Vincent Mouret says:

    who knows when another copy will come on the market? ==> very easy to answer.

  • Brian Lee says:

    There is one more at the National Gallery of Arts, Washington DC.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    As much as I love Mahler’s music, I’d rather have one of the original ‘Maltese Falcon’ statuettes . . . you know, things that dreams are made of.

  • Martin says:

    And another in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam.

  • Antwerp Smerle says:

    Fascinating. The huge discrepancy between the guide price and the actual price may reflect my observation that many people who are otherwise well-versed in the arts seem to have a black hole when it comes to classical music.

    I suspect that for many music-lovers, Mahler – the man, his life and his music – has a relevance in the 21st century that is unlike that of any other composer. That’s why an artefact such as this would, as NL says, be perceived as something of major significance and value.

  • John Boundy says:

    I thought Solti had one…..though of course that might have been sold after he died.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I would say that sale price is 10% for Mahler and 90% for Rodin, the definition of “scluptor”.

    An authorized Rodin bronze for sale is not a common item.