“The Cathedral” was modelled by Auguste Rodin and depicts two right hands whose fingers are about to touch. The sculpture creates an intimate space between the hands. The “Cathedral” was produced many times by Rodin, in stone and bronze and every time one element stayed the same, the sculpture is made up of two right hands, each belonging to two different individuals. This masterpiece was entitled “The Ark of the Covenant” before being named “The Cathedral”. In the “Two Hands” plaster version there is an inscribed “Hands of Rodin and Rose Beuret”, which suggest that these hands are the hands of Rodin, the sculptor and his lover.
Parallels have been made between the inner space that emanates from this sculpture and Gothic architecture. Emptiness was a key element of Rodin’s composition. Rainer Maria Rilke pointed out that:
“the role of air had always been extremely important”
for him. Rodin also felt an “intense passion for the expression of the human hands.” During his career, he modelled thousands of hands as small clay studies. For Rodin, the hand and the interplay of hands within groups of figures were expressive components of his sculptures.
Rodin imbued hands with a range of emotions, from anger and despair to compassion and kindness. He kept many hand clay studies in his studio where he would contemplate them as sculptural forms in space.
When Rodin composed a new figure he often experimented with different hands at varying angles to explore the possibilities of new expressive combinations. This approach reinforced Rodin’s interest in the partial figure and he felt that representations of parts of the body, such as the hand, are not necessarily dependent upon a complete figure to convey meaning.
- Title: The Cathedral
- Year: Modelled in clay 1908; cast in bronze 1925
- Place of Origin: France
- Material: Bronze Casting
- Dimensions: H. 64 cm ; W. 29.5 cm ; D. 31.8 cm
- Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
Artist Essential Facts:
- Name: François-Auguste-René Rodin
- Born: 1840 – Paris, France
- Died: 1917 (aged 77) – Meudon, France
- Nationality: French
- Notable work
“I invent nothing, I rediscover.” Auguste Rodin
Photo Credit: By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons