The Small Relic-bearer


George Minne
Ghent 1866 – Sint-Martens-Latem 1941
68x16x26 cm
Inventory number 2049

A youth, kneeling and with head bent forward, holds up his arms to support the relic that rests on his left shoulder. Ghent-born sculptor George Minne frequently revisited the theme of the solitary adolescent boy who has isolated himself from his surroundings. The tight linear composition, with taut surfaces and angular lines and repetitive parallel movements, define this sculpture. Minne did not invent the motif of the figure who is carrying a burden on his shoulder: it had previously been worked out by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. However, Minne's execution was quite novel. Drawing inspiration from the pessimistic atmosphere that pervaded the late 19th century, he created the type of the vulnerable, introverted young man as an expression of his own sense of unrest and anxiety. The type would subsequently also appear in the work of other artists.


In 1898, Minne created what may be regarded as a highlight of Symbolist sculpting: in The Fountain of the Kneeling Youths, he revisited the motif of the unsure, refuge-seeking boy in five identical figures. The poet Emile Verhaeren described Minne's oeuvre as an “incarnation of feelings of uncertainty and anxiety in dream-like figures; in the primitive creatures or personages who are born somewhere outside our reality.”

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