R is for . . .

2

April 21, 2014 by Ray Yanek

R

Rodin, Auguste (1840-1917)

Rodin’s iconic sculpture The Thinker is, along with Michelangelo’s David (which I wrote about over here) one of the western world’s most famous sculptures.  Everyone recognizes it; everyone knows it.The_Thinker,_Auguste_Rodin

What I didn’t know though, is that The Thinker was not intended as a stand-alone piece, but rather as a part of Rodin’s massive project The Gates of Hell.

The Thinker on The Gates of Hell

The Thinker on The Gates of Hell

Rodin was commissioned to create The Gates of Hell to serve as a door to a planned French museum.  Rodin’s door depicts scene from Dante’s Inferno and is populated with characters from the work.

The Thinker (which was originally called The Poet) sits high above the scene, leading gates of hellsome to argue that Rodin intended the thinker to be Dante himself as he contemplates the scene unfolding underneath him.  Other’s believe the thinker is Rodin, who sits and analyzes his work on the door.

Another of Rodin’s famous works to come from the Gates of Hell is The Kiss, a sculpture that I’ve grown to love more and more as I write this.

The Kiss

The Kiss

The Kiss is of Francesca and Paolo, both characters in the Inferno.  Francesca was married to Paolo’s brothe,r but Francesca and Paolo fell in love while reading the Arthurian legends of Guinevere and Lancelot.  Rodin’s statue immortalizes the first time the two kissed.  It is the last time also, though.  Francesca’s husband soon discovers the affair and kills the lovers, dooming them to the second circle of Hell where their souls are blown back and forth unceasingly.  As I mentioned, I love this sculpture. I love the placement of Paolo’s hand and the way Francesca is shown, not as a submissive, but as a full player in the steaminess.  It’d be better if, you know, they weren’t cheating….

But The Kiss never made it to the Gates as he decided that the sculpture was a little too romantic and beautiful for Hell, and he replaced this version of Francesca and Paolo with another that you can see to the right.  Without a doubt this new version shows the lust that put them in the second circle and seems much more carnal.

The Gates of Hell -- detail

The Gates of Hell — detail

Unfortunately, Rodin’s door was never used.  Plans fell through the museum and Rodin lost interest in the piece.  The work served him well though, as many of his most successful pieces came from The Gates.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “R is for . . .

  1. P Liegl says:

    Would have guessed “R” would be Rodin. His works are incredible and thanks for the lesson on the “Gates of Hell”. The “Inferno” seems to show up in lots of art. It is time to consider rereading it.

  2. helenrj says:

    This really puts a different perspective on the art piece. The Thinker is doing more than dwelling on his toes…he’s considering ‘Hell’ and all its aspects. Thanks for the ‘R’.

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