"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 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
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.
Justice moved my High Artificer
My maker was divine authority
The highest wisdom, and the primal love.
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.
"If heaven is a place where nothing ever happens,
I guess Hell is a place of constant activity. New York?
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.
Abandon hope all
ye who enter here
A few of the several pieces that had lives both within and without The Gates
, more affectionately known as poop poopty poop
The original plaster cast is located
. However, there are at least three bronze
replicas in Philadephia
, and Tokyo
. Sorry, p_i, none in New
that I know of.