The Gates Of Hell

I have twice stood before The Gates of Hell--while on vacation in Paris--mesmerized by the scope and detail. And if there had been fewer people running up and touching the sculpture and acting like they were going to enter the Gates (ha ha--so original), I probably would have stayed and studied it for the better part of an hour.

The Gates of Hell were originally supposed to have been a pair of bronze doors to be used as an entrance for a museum in Paris, the Museum of Decorative Arts, which was never built. Rodin worked on the sculpture for 37 years in the lobby of the Hotel Biron, which later became the Rodin Museum.

The photo tends to understate the hugeness of the object (sorry, a This Is Spinal Tap reference regarding Stonehenge). The Gates of Hell are close to 20 feet high, 13 feet wide, and over 3 feet deep (6 meters by 4 meters by 1 meter).

Rodin chose a scene from "The Inferno", of Dante's Divine Comedy as the subject for the sculpture, but ended up not sticking to the narrative of the poem. If you are at all familiar with Rodin's other works, there are many of his famous sculptures embedded in the Gates--and were originally created on the Gates and later became works of their own.

In this photo, note The Thinker just below The Three Shades atop the Gates. But there are many, many more of his famous sculptures adorning the Gates, all in various states of joy, suffering, and damnation.

My photos here also do not show how black this bronze cast--displayed at the Rodin Museum--is. By the way, the plaster original is displayed at the Musee d'Orsay, also in Paris.

So what if you can't make it to Paris? You're in luck. There are two more original bronze casts outside Paris--one at the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia (the first bronze cast, actually) and another at The Museum of Western Art in Tokyo.

Rodin never saw his creation cast in bronze, and only ever saw it as the full-size plaster model. I highly recommend visiting the Rodin Museum if you ever find yourself in Paris--the sculptures are amazing and the gardens are relaxing.