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Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
Ugolino and his children
H. 41.5 cm ; W. 40.3 cm ; D. 58.7 cm
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Rodin must have been very impressed by Carpeaux’s Ugolino (1861, Musée d’Orsay), the famous sculpture whose dramatic subject was drawn from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Twenty years later, after receiving the commission for The Gates of Hell, he made several sketches of this Dantesque theme dear to the Romantics: imprisoned, driven crazy by hunger, Ugolino, Count of Gheradesca, devoured his dead children, a crime for which he was eternally damned.
In his group on The Gates , Rodin depicted the dramatic scene just before it reached its climax : Ugolino is crawling over the bodies of his dying children, but has not yet given in to his bestial instincts. Naked, grimacing, on all fours, this desperate man has lost all sense of human dignity. His pose was both humiliating and original in the art of Rodin’s day. He placed this group in a prominent position on The Gates , and then decided to have a freestanding version of it cast.