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Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” – The story of a damned artwork

Posted August 15th, 2012

Documentaries, France, Sculptures, Videos


The Gates of Hell (French: La Porte de l’Enfer) is a monumental sculptural group work by French artist Auguste Rodin that depicts a scene from “The Inferno”, the first section of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. It stands at 6 m high, 4 m wide and 1 m deep (19.69′H × 13.12′W × 3.29′D) and contains 180 figures. The figures range from 15 cm high up to more than one metre. Several of the figures were also cast independently by Rodin.

The sculptural was commissioned by the Directorate of Fine Arts in 1880 and was meant to be delivered in 1885. Rodin would continue to work on and off on this project for 37 years, until his death in 1917.

The Directorate asked for an inviting entrance to a planned Decorative Arts Museum with the theme being left to Rodin’s selection. Even before this commission, Rodin had developed sketches of some of Dante’s characters based on his admiration of Dante’s Inferno.

The Decorative Arts Museum was never built. Rodin worked on this project on the ground floor of the Hôtel Biron. Near the end of his life, Rodin donated sculptures, drawings and reproduction rights to the French government. In 1919, two years after his death, The Hôtel Biron became the Musée Rodin housing a cast of The Gates of Hell and related works.

Is Rodin’s monumental masterpiece a failure?
This video explains why there are two different versions of the same artwork, and why Rodin remained obsessed by the Gates until his death.
It shows how the artist managed to solve major aesthetic issues that faced modern artists at that time.

More info.