Paris - Musée Rodin: Le Baiser
Le Baiser (The Kiss) is one of Auguste Rodin's most famous works. Originally named Francesca da Rimini, it was modelled as part of an 1880 commission by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, to create a monumental portal to act as the door of the museum. La Porte de l'Enfer (The Gates of Hell) was based on Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) of Dante Alighieri, with each statue representing one of the main characters. In the Inferno while visiting the second circle of Hell, Virgil and Dante encountered those who committed sins of the flesh, including Paolo and Francesca, two real-life contemporaries of Dante's. Around 1275, Francesca, the daughter of Guido da Polenta, married Gianciotto Malatesta, Lord of Rimini, who entrusted her in the care of his brother, the handsome young Paolo. Paolo and Francesca fell in love with each other while reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere. As soon as they exchanged their first kiss, Gianciotto caught them by surprise and stabbed them. The Kiss was later removed from the Gates and replaced with another pair of lovers located on the smaller right-hand column.
Rodin depicts the two lovers in embrace, but their lips do not actually touch--suggesting they were interrupted and met their demise prior to consummating. The book they read together can be seen in Paolo's hand.
In January, 1888, the Directorate of Fine Arts commissioned an independent version in marble, double the size, to be shown at the 1889 Exhibition Universelle. Jean Turcan, the practicien responsible for carving the group, ceased working on it at the beginning of that year. Rodin left it in abeyance and it wasn't displayed until the Salon of the Sociéte Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1898.
After being presented again at the Universal Exhibition of 1900, The Kiss entered the Musée du Luxembourg before being deposited at the Musée Rodin, when it was created in 1918. In 1900, two other marble replicas were ordered from Rodin, one by Carl Jacobsen for the sculpture museum he was setting up in Copenhagen, and the other by an art lover, Edward Perry Warren, for his own collection (now in the Tate Gallery in London). The three marble versions were exhibited together at the Musée d'Orsay in 1995. The two repliacs were carried through to completion, while The Kiss belonging to the Musée Rodin retained an unfinished aspect. A fourth, smaller copy, was made after the death of Rodin by sculptor Henri Greber for the Rodin Museum of Philadelphia.
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.