The untold stories behind Rodin’s sculptures

I swear I am not alone in this.

I’m pretty sure most people have seen this iconic sculpture in the past, and a majority of those who have, attempted the pose like I did. For those who are generally unfamiliar with the piece above, let me tell you more about it and the other remarkable stories I’ve learned from having visited the museum dedicated to its artist, François Auguste René Rodin.

Rodin was a French sculptor who had a penchant for realism which he exhibited in his work through the emotions and textures suggested in the sculptures.

Musée Rodin, where all his work can be found, is actually a refurbishment of Hôtel Biron, an 18th Century palace Rodin used as his Paris studio until he died in 1917.

The Thinker (the first picture above), was originally called ‘The Poet’ by Rodin. It was said that the statue was a depiction of Dante, Italian author of the Divine Comedy, and meant to be a portrayal of both a being with a tortured body, almost a damned soul, and a free-thinking man, determined to transcend his suffering through poetry. Further down this article, you will see that it is a part of an even bigger piece of sculpture called, ‘The Gates of Hell’, which Rodin worked on for the last decades of his life. Decades later ‘The Thinker’ became known as a symbol of philosophy and knowledge that many have interpreted the person to be a philosopher, not an author or poet.

Eve, 1881.

Commissioned in 1881, Eve was not shown until 1899, when Rodin felt bold enough to show his work in an incomplete state. Eve is actually an unfinished sculpture because his sitter, the original model for this piece, got pregnant and could no longer pose for him. But what’s more captivating about this is the figure’s self-protective pose, with her face hidden in the crook of the arm, almost evoking a feeling of shame and sadness – a stark opposite to the usual portrayal of Eve the temptress in Christian art.

The Kiss, 1889.

Ah, to be so passionately in love. But what most don’t know, this romantic scene made of marble depicts the first kiss of an extramarital affair between Francesca, and her husbands’ brother, Paolo. According to the story, Francesca and Paolo had fallen in love and when her husband found out, he stabbed them both to death. The two lovers were then condemned to wander eternally through Hell.

The Gates of Hell, 1880. That’s me posing for scale.

This entire bronze structure houses over 200 figures and groups that formed a breeding ground for ideas Rodin drew on for the rest of his working life. He apparently worked on and off this project for over 30 years!

Below are the other amazing pieces on display in the museum.

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Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.

-Auguste Rodin

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