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The Legion of Honor – Virtual Tour

Legion of Honor, San Francisco

The Legion of Honor – Virtual Tour

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco consists of two separate museum locations, the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.

The “Legion of Honor” is the name used both for the museum collection and for the building in which it is housed.

A Virtual Tour of The Legion of Honor

Highlights of The Legion of Honor

The Thinker

“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 this sculpture independently of The Gates, giving it the title “The Thinker,” and in 1902, he embarked on this larger version.

Consequently, it has since become one of his most recognized masterpieces and is usually placed on a stone pedestal. The nude male figure is sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand, deep in thought. The image is often used as an image to represent philosophy.

Torso of Hermes

The Torso of Hermes, after Polykleitos, is a Roman marble sculpture of a torso, larger than life-size, derived from an earlier Greek statue by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos (490–425 BC). 

Polykleitos was an ancient Greek sculptor in bronze of the 5th century BCE. His Greek name Πολύκλειτος meant “much-renowned.” He is sometimes called the Elder, to distinguish him from his son, who was mainly an architect as well as a sculptor.

Polykleitos was the first Greek sculptor to emphasize the muscular body of the athlete. He established the ideal proportions of the male body that was much admired and imitated.

Statue of Asklepios

This Statue of Asklepios depicts the son of Apollo, the Greek god of medicine, and patron of physicians. During the Hellenistic period, there was increased realism in sculpture, which is exemplified in this statue.

He was sculptured standing with his weight on his right leg and leaning on his staff.

Asklepios’ right-hand rests on his weight-bearing hip, which is raised in an exaggerated posture over the folds of his draped cloak.

The contrasting directions, called the contrapposto pose, representing the planes of the body and the sharp folds of the himation, produce a spiral twist and convey a sense of movement.

Cycladic Figures

Cycladic Figures originated from the ancient Cycladic culture, which flourished in the islands of the Aegean Sea from c. 3300 to 1100 BCE. 

The best-known cultural objects of this period and culture are the marble figures, usually called Cycladic “idols” or “figurines.”  

The Cyclades is a group of Greek islands, southeast of the mainland in the Aegean Sea. It centers on the island of Delos, considered the birthplace of Apollo and home to some of Greece’s most important archaeological ruins.

These ancient marble figures were famous among the people of Crete and Greece and are found scattered around the Aegean. 

Along with the Minoan civilization and Mycenaean Greece, the Cycladic people are counted among the three dominant Aegean cultures.

Head of Bearded Man (Cypriot)

“Head of Bearded Man” is a limestone sculpture created over 2500 years ago in Cyprus. It is an almost life-sized depiction of a male head, wearing a pointed cap.

The beard is rendered as four rows of stylized coils, and the brow is sculptured as two smaller rows of spiral curls, framing the face. The eyebrows are arched and full, the eyes convex with a caruncle with eyelids.

Self-portrait by James Tissot

In 1863, Tissot shifted his focus to the depiction of modern life through portraits. During this period, Tissot gained high critical acclaim and quickly became a success as an artist.

Like contemporaries such as Alfred Stevens and Claude Monet, Tissot also explored Japonisme, including Japanese objects and costumes in his pictures and expressing style influence.

This painting was created during that time before Tissot fought in the Franco-Prussian War as part of the improvised defense of Paris.

He joined two companies of the Garde Nationale and later the Paris Commune. After these tumultuous events, he left Paris for London in 1871.

St. John the Baptist Preaching” by Mattia Preti

“St. John the Baptist Preaching” by Mattia Preti depicts John as the forerunner of Jesus, who announces Jesus’ coming.

This painting shows John’s prophetizing and preparing the people for Jesus’ ministry as symbolized by his staff, which has a cross on top with a message.

St. John is shown preaching and pointing to the heavens urging his audience to remember that their reward is waiting in heaven, and their salvation is in God’s hands.

Preti has included the symbols for St. John the Baptist frequently is shown in Christian art, identifiable including the reed cross, his camel’s skin clothing, and lamb.

“The Three Shades” by Auguste Rodin

“The Three Shades” by Auguste Rodin was produced in plaster by Auguste Rodin in 1886 for his monumental sculpture “The Gates of Hell.”  Then he had them enlarged to create an impressive independent group in 1904.

The downward thrust of their left arms and their heads conveys despair as they gaze down at the spectators. The Three Shades seem to be inviting the viewer to witness the drama of sin and damnation unfolding below them on The Gates.

He made several individual studies for the Shades before finally deciding to put together three identical figures gathered around a central point. The Shades are three separate casts of the same figure that has been rotated into different positions.

The angle at which the heads fall downward is so exaggerated that the necks and shoulders form an almost horizontal line. They were created for the top of The Gates looking down on the viewer.

The Legion of Honor

Map for The Legion of Honor 

Inside The Legion of Honor

A Tour of the Top Museums in the USA

Legion of Honor Art Museum


“Well done is better than well said.”
– Benjamin Franklin


Photo Credit:By Amadscientist (Original photographer, Mark James Miller) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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