Christina Buley-Uribe will include this drawing in her forthcoming Catalogue raisonné des dessins et peintures d'Auguste Rodin under the number 140901.
According to Christina Buley-Uribe,
In July 1906 in the Pré-Catelan, Paris, Rodin attended for the first time a performance given by the Royal Khmer Ballet. The dancers were accompanying King Sisowath on his official visit to the Colonial Exhibition of Marseilles. During their stay in France they spent a few days in Paris, where Rodin followed them. He later told the art critic Louis Vauxcelles: “I contemplated and admired the dancers in their ecstasy. When they finished I was left feeling empty, in the shadow and cold. It was as if they took the beauty of the world with them. .. I followed them to Marseilles; I would have followed them to Cairo! ”
In Marseilles he executed around ten drawings that he retouched and reworked with watercolour upon returning to his atelier. Rodin went on to execute some 150 drawings of the subject, including portraits of the king and his retinue.
The present watercolour belongs to a small series of approximately six drawings of Cambodian dancers wearing blue Sampot dress, the national garment of Cambodia, that were completed by Rodin at around the same time. Two works from the series, which are in the collection of the Musée Rodin in Paris (inv. nos. D 4515 & D. 4519) are characterised by the same tone of dense and deep cerulean-turquoise blue used for the dancer’s dress and a lighter tone for the background. Another work in the collection of the Musée Rodin resembles this watercolour in the pose and the position of the hands (inv. no. 4437). Note Rodin’s particular treatment of the dancers’ delicate hands alongside his lack of interest in their facial features.