Inscribed as follows:

I am the way into the city of woe,
I am the way to a forsaken people,
I am the way into eternal sorrow.

Sacred justice moved my architect.
I was raised here by divine omnipotence,
primordial love and ultimate intellect.

Only those elements time cannot wear
were made before me, and beyond time I stand.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Translated from Dante Alighieri's Inferno; I like dem_bones' translation much better.

"I am the way into the city of woe,
I am the way to a forsaken people,
I am the way into eternal sorrow."
    --The Inferno

The Making of Hell

"Are cathedrals ever finished?"--Rodin, responding to questions about the Gates of Hell

    Auguste Rodin started his masterpiece in 1880 and continually refined, retouched, and improved it until his death in 1917.  On August 16, 1880 he first received the commission: a massive door inscribed with images from Dante's Inferno. It was to be the entrance to the planned Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, a museum that was never to be built (the Musée d'Orsay now stands in its stead).
    He read through the text and made hundreds of sketches based on scenes from the book, forming a vague idea that would only take shape in his mind as he was building the statue itself. He based the gates solely on the description of hell, loosely basing the design on Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. He built the statue's figures separately, molding them on their own merits, placing them, reworking them, tearing them apart and then replacing them in a haphazard design that only he could make sense of.
    In 1885, he had progressed far enough to announce his cost estimate and to display the model to a few select friends. In 1889 in it is again shown to a select few, including Claude Monet who was "amazed", and it is now in its most complete form. In 1890 it is exhibited to the public-- without any of the works that had previously been mounted on it. By this time, Rodin has begun stripping most of his works of detail, leaving the most basic, vital details left to leave a deeper impact (similar to Hemingway in literature). It remained basically in this form until Rodin's death.

The Gates

Justice moved my High Artificer
My maker was divine authority
The highest wisdom, and the primal love.

--The Inferno

    About 300 lost souls scream and moan in agony and despair, as Dante-- the thinker-- looks on from above. The souls are in perpetual movement, the curves of their body flow with muscle and bones, yet they are also frozen for all time. They grasp for one another, yet-- especially seen in the Kiss-- they are always just out of reach of one another. The spirit of Hell is caught perfectly: each agonized expression tells another mythical story of ultimate loss, and Rodin makes each a sympathetic, tragic character, such as Ugolin's expression being transformed to an animal, primal state before he eats his own dead children.
    The gate is an excellent example of his work, for it was during the gate- his first commissioned work- that he learned his style. He reworked, dissassembled, hacked away, painstakingly perfected what other people would have left alone. He learned to capture movement and, it seems, life itself in the plaster with which he worked. Although as a whole it was never finished, Rodin loved the work and kept it always near him (no, not "around his neck" near him, but in a nearby studio at least), but swamped with other commission he never had the month estimated it would take to finish it. Yet, in at least Rodin's eyes, it was destined to be an unfinished work. 

Hell's Habitants

Abandon hope all ye who enter here
--The Inferno

A few of the several pieces that had lives both within and without The Gates of Hell:

Hell's Location

"If heaven is a place where nothing ever happens, I guess Hell is a place of constant activity. New York?"
--Pseudo_Intellectual, more affectionately known as poop poopty poop poop

    The original plaster cast is located in Meudon, France. However, there are at least three bronze full size replicas in Philadephia, Paris, and Tokyo. Sorry, p_i, none in New York City that I know of.

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