Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
The Gates of Hell, second maquette
H. 16.5 cm ; W. 13.5 cm ; D. 2.6 cm
In 1880, when he was still just a promising but little-known sculptor, Rodin was awarded a commission by the French state to design a bronze door for a future Museum of Decorative Arts. He threw himself body and soul into this project, drawing then modelling a multitude of subjects inspired by The Divine Comedy. In this long poem written in the early 14th century, Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321) describes his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Like many Romantic artists before him, Rodin was passionately interested in Hell, inhabited by a multitude of despairing beings, and ignored the two others parts.
The second maquette did not show the portal in its entirety but focused on the compositional elements of some of the panels.These bas-reliefs were crowded with tiny figures.While it is impossible to identify the themes represented precisely, the relationship between several groups of figures and drawings Rodin executed during this period is obvious.