The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in Art & History

The Gates of Hell

Rodin Museum - Joy of Museums 3
The Gates of Hell is a monumental sculptural group created by Auguste Rodin that depicts a scene from “The Inferno” from Dante Alighieri’s book the Divine Comedy. The sculpture was commissioned in 1880, it became Rodin’s life work as he continued to work on and off on this project for 37 years, until his death in 1917.

The Gates of Hell stands at 6 metres high, 4 metres wide and 1 metre deep (19.7×13.1×3.3 ft) and contains 180 figures. The figures range from 15 centimetres (6 in) high up to more than one metre (3 ft). Many of the figures were modelled and cast separately as stand-alone art sculptures.

Rodin Museum - Joy of Museums 9

The original sculptures that were enlarged and became works of art of their own include:

  • The Thinker (Le Penseur), also called The Poet, is located above the door panels.
  • The Kiss (Le Baiser) was originally in The Gate, He removed the figure that became known as The Kiss because it seemed to conflict with the other suffering figures.
  • Ugolino and His Children, who according to the story, ate the corpses of his children after they died by starvation.
  • The Three Shades (Les Trois Ombres) which originally pointed to the phrase “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.
  • Fleeting Love (Fugit Amor) is located on the right door pane, it is one of several figures of lovers that represent Paolo and Francesca da Rimini.
  • Paolo and Francesca is shown on the left door pane. Paolo tries to reach Francesca, who seems to slip away.
  • Meditation appears on the rightmost part of the tympanum.
  • The Old Courtesan, a naked female body.
  • Fallen Caryatid Carrying her Stone is based on the figure at the top of the left pilaster.
  • I Am Beautiful (Je suis belle), is among the second set of figures on the extreme right portion of the door.
  • Eternal Springtime (L’Éternel printemps)
  • Adam and Eve. Rodin found he could not get Eve’s figure right. Consequently, several figures of Eve were made, none of which were used.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                     The Gates of Hell
  • Year:                     Commissioned 1880,  work on and off  until his death in 1917
  • Place of Origin:  France
  • Material:              Bronze
  • Museum:              Rodin Museum, Philadelphia

Artist Essential Facts:

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“I invent nothing, I rediscover.” Auguste Rodin

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Photo Credit: By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons