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Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
H. 181.5 cm ; W. 112.5 cm ; D. 117 cm
Commissioned by the French state in 1888, carved between 1888 and 1898. Joined the collections of the Musée du Luxembourg in 1901; transferred to the Musée Rodin in 1919.
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The Kiss originally represented Paolo and Francesca, two characters borrowed, once again, from Dante’s Divine Comedy: slain by Francesca’s husband who surprised them as they exchanged their first kiss, the two lovers were condemned to wander eternally through Hell. This group, designed in the early stages of the elaboration of The Gates, was given a prominent position on the lower left door, opposite Ugolino, until 1886, when Rodin decided that this depiction of happiness and sensuality was incongruous with the theme of his vast project.
He therefore transformed the group into an independent work and exhibited it in 1887. The fluid, smooth modelling, the very dynamic composition and the charming theme made this group an instant success. Since no anecdotal detail identified the lovers, the public called it The Kiss, an abstract title that expressed its universal character very well. The French state commissioned an enlarged version in marble, which Rodin took nearly ten years to deliver. Not until 1898 did he agree to exhibit what he called his “huge knick-knack” as a companion piece to his audacious Balzac , as if The Kiss would make it easier for the public to accept his portrait of the writer.