The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in Art & History

The Secret

Rodin Museum - Joy of Museums - The Secret 2

“The Secret” was modelled by Auguste Rodin and depicts an unknown object hidden by two palms. The secret is keeping the palms forever apart but close enough for the fingers to touch. The two hands are the right hands of two separate individuals.

The sculpture creates an intimate space between the hands and is considered a companion piece to sculpture “The Cathedral”. In the sculpture of “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.

In many of the Rodin sculptures of hands, the space between the hands is meaningful and mysterious. Emptiness or space 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.

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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.

Rodin Museum - Joy of Museums - The Secret

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.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                     The Secret
  • Year:                     Modelled in clay 1910; cast in bronze 1925
  • Place of Origin:   France
  • Material:              Bronze Casting
  • Dimensions:       33 1/2 x 19 x 15 1/4 inches (85.1 x 48.3 x 38.7 cm)
  • 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