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“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin (Philadelphia)

“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin

“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin

“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin was initially conceived for his monumental bronze portal entitled “The Gates of Hell” (1880-1917).  The figure was intended to represent Italian poet Dante pondering “The Divine Comedy,” his epic classic of Paradise and Inferno. Initially, this masterpiece had several other names, including “The Poet.”

In 1889, Rodin exhibited the sculpture independently of The Gates, giving it the title “The Thinker,” and in 1902, he embarked on this larger versions. It has since become one of his most recognized masterpieces. It has been cast in bronze in three different sizes, including this one of the original medium-sized sculpture of “The Thinker.”

There are various sculptures of “The Thinker” around the world. They are all usually placed on a stone pedestal. The nude male figure sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand, deep in thought, is often used as an image to represent philosophy.

There are about 28 of the large or full-size castings, where the figure is about 186 centimeters (73 in) high, though not all were made during Rodin’s lifetime and under his supervision. There are also various other versions, several in plaster, studies, and posthumous castings, in a range of sizes. Examples include:

Conceived initially for “The Gates of Hell,” “The Thinker” dominates the center of the door lintel. It presides over the figures of the damned, depicted on the doors below the lintel. Behind him, the chaotic dance of death takes place. He sits apart with no symbol of his identification. Is he the poet, the creator, the judge, the sculptor?

“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin

Rodin based “The Gates of Hell” on “The Divine Comedy” of Dante and most of the figures in his intricate sculpture represented the characters in the epic poem. Some speculate that “The Thinker,” at the center over the doorway and at about 70 cm high, which is larger than most other figures, was originally intended to depict Dante at the gates of Hell, pondering his poem. The figures in the sculpture are mainly nude, especially “The Thinker” as Rodin wanted the figure in the tradition of Michelangelo, to represent intellect as well as poetry.


  • There are many castings of The Thinker in various museums, have you seen one?
  • Does the nudity of this sculpture add a unique dimension?
  • Should The Thinker have been created clothed in some way?

The Thinker

  • Title:                     The Thinker
  • French:                 Le Penseur
  • Artist:                    Auguste Rodin
  • Year:                     Modelled in clay 1880 – 81; cast in bronze 1924
  • Place of Origin:   France
  • Material:              Bronze Casting
  • Museum:              Rodin Museum, Philadelphia

Auguste Rodin


“I invent nothing, I rediscover.” – 
– Auguste Rodin


Photo Credit: GM

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