Ugolino on a Column

Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)



H. 144.5 cm ; W. 40.3 cm ; D. 58.7 cm


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.


The enlargement of this group completed the process circa 1904 and the large-scale bronze now stands in the pool in the gardens of the Hôtel Biron. In 1900, for his exhibition at the Pavillon de l’Alma, Rodin showed his small-scale works on tall plaster plinths or columns, adorned with foliated scrolls. From his experiments with The Burghers of Calais and other sculptures, Rodin is known to have been preoccupied with both the relationship of his works to space and contrasting effects.

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