This small bronze statuette explores the delicate relationship between a sister and her baby brother, a variation on the theme of maternal love that appears occasionally in Auguste Rodin’s oeuvre before 1900. His depictions of mother and child during the 1860s and 1870s reflect his training as a commercial decorator in the rococo tradition: ornate heavy drapery envelops the figures, which twist in exaggerated contrapposto. In contrast, the simple composition and complex emotion of Brother and Sister typify Rodin’s mature work. The sculpture’s endearing subject greatly appealed to the French public, and it became one of his most acclaimed and frequently illustrated groups at the turn of the century.
Most scholars believe that Brother and Sister was created in 1890; more than twenty casts exist, along with marble and plaster versions. Although the number of the Phillips cast is not known, Katherine Drier (who gave the statuette to The Phillips Collection in 1953) stated that “Rodin personally considered (her statuette) the best of those bronze casts made.”