“The Cathedral” by Auguste Rodin
“The Cathedral” was modeled 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 reproduced 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. The emptiness was an essential element of Rodin’s composition. Rainer Maria Rilke pointed out that:
“The role of air had always been extremely important.”
Rodin also felt an “intense passion for the expression of the human hands.” During his career, he modeled 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. He felt that representations of parts of the body, such as the hand, are not necessarily dependent upon a complete figure to convey meaning.
Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) is considered the father of modern sculpture; he possessed a unique ability to model a complex and deeply pocketed surface in clay. Many of his most notable sculptures were criticized during his lifetime.
Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, he modeled the human body with realism and with personal character and physicality. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist and remained one of the few sculptors widely known outside the arts community.
- Title: The Cathedral
- Artist: Auguste Rodin
- 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
- Name: François-Auguste-René Rodin
- Born: 1840 – Paris, France
- Died: 1917 (aged 77) – Meudon, France
- Nationality: French
- Notable work
- Eternal Springtime (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- Two Hands (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- The Cathedral (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- The Hand of God (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- The Thinker (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- The Gates of Hell (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- “The Gates of Hell” by Auguste Rodin (Kunsthaus Zürich)
- The Hand from the Tomb (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- The Sirens (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- Young Mother in the Grotto (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- The Secret (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- The Thinker at the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia (Full Size)
- The Thinker at the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia (Medium Size)
- The Thinker ( Cleveland Museum of Art)
- The Thinker (The Legion of Honor)
- The Burghers of Calais (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)
- The Burghers of Calais (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- “The Burghers of Calais” by Auguste Rodin (Washington, D.C.)
- “The Burghers of Calais” by Auguste Rodin (Tokyo)
- Balzac (Rodin Museum, Philadelphia)
- Eve (Musée Rodin, Paris)
- Adam (Art Gallery of Western Australia)
- The Kiss (Musée Rodin, Paris)
- Orpheus and Eurydice (Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET)
“The human body is first and foremost a mirror to the soul, and its greatest beauty comes from that.”
– Auguste Rodin
Photo Credit: GM