Paris - Musée Rodin: La Porte de l'Enfer - Les trois Ombres
La Porte de l'Enfer (The Gates of Hell) by Auguste Rodin depicts a scene from The Inferno, the first section of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The monumental sculptural ensemble, standing at 6m high by 4m wide and 1m deep (19.69'x13.12'x3.29'), contains over 180 figures, ranging from 15cm high to more than one metre--many of which were later cast independently.
La Porte de l'Enfer was commissioned in 1880 by the Directorate of Fine Arts for an entrance to their planned Decorative Arts Museum. Although intended for an 1885 delivery, the museum was never built and Rodin would continue to work on the project on and off for 37 years, until his death in 1917. Its first public viewing came at a self-organized one-man exhibition at the Place de l'Alma in 1900. Right before the opening, Roding stripped the Gates of its figures, leaving an unreal space, modulated by light and shadow. Towards the end of his life, Rodin restored the figures, but never saw it cast in bronze. In 1917, the original plaster was restored and is currently on display at the Musée d'Orsay. That model was used to make the original three bronze casts, including this one at the Musée Rodin. The other two are in the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park, Tokyo. Subsequent copies were made and distributed to a number of locations, including The Kunsthaus Zürich, the B. Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University and the Rodin Gallery in Seoul.
Le Penseur (The Thinker) is located above the door panels. One interpretation suggests that it might represent Dante looking down to the characters in the Inferno. Another interpretation is that the Thinker is Rodin himself meditating about his composition. Les trois Ombres (The Three Shades) stand atop the Gate. The group was initially conceived of as an indepedent figure around 1880 and cast as a composition of three identical figures juxtaposed at slightly different angles by 1904. Rodin's peers believed The Three Shades signified Dante's warning, "Abandon every hope, ye who enters here," which is taken from the inscription above the Gates of Hell in Inferno.
Ugolino et ses enfants (Ugolino and His Children), cast as a separate bronze in 1882, is located on the right door. It depicts Ugolino della Gherardesca, who according to the story, ate the corpses of his children after they died by starvation. Fugit Amor (Fugitive Love), also on the right door, is one of several figures of lovers representing Paolo and Francesca da Ramini, depicted more famously in The Kiss. Le Baiser (The Kiss) was originally in The Gate, but Rodin removed the figure because the depiction of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini's initial joy seemed to contrast with the other suffering figures.
The Musée Rodin, displaying the works of the French sculptor, Auguste Rodin, was opened in 1919 in the Hôtel Biron and surrounding grounds. Rodin used the Hôtel Biron as his residence from 1908, and subsequently donated his entire collection of sculptures (along with paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Pierre-Auguste Renoir that he had acquired) to the French State on the condition that they turn the building into a museum dedicated to his works. The Musée Rodin contains most of Rodin's significant creations, including The Thinker and The Kiss.