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The Gates of Hell

Foundry mark lower right side: Alexis Rudier/Fondeur. PARIS

Auguste Rodin, French, 1840 - 1917. Cast by the founder Alexis Rudier, Paris, 1874 - 1952.

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
Modeled 1880-1917; cast 1926-28

Medium:
Bronze

Dimensions:
20 feet 10 3/4 inches x 13 feet 2 inches x 33 3/8 inches (636.9 x 401.3 x 84.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Rodin Museum

Object Location:

* Rodin Museum, Parkway

Accession Number:
F1929-7-128

Credit Line:
Bequest of Jules E. Mastbaum, 1929

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Label:
In 1880 Rodin was commissioned to create a set of bronze doors for a new museum in Paris. Inspired by The Divine Comedy, written by Dante Alighieri (Italian, c. 1265–1324), Rodin planned to decorate the doors with characters that Dante met on his fictional journey through hell. The sculptor eventually discarded the idea of a strict narrative and instead created a weightless, chaotic world filled with more than 200 figures in the throes of pain and despair. Although the planned museum never came to fruition, Rodin worked on the sculpture for nearly thirty-seven years, periodically adding, removing, or modifying elements on it.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    From the moment the work was commissioned in 1880 until his death thirty-seven years later, The Gates of Hell dominated much of Auguste Rodin's life, thought, and labor. Inspired by Dante's Inferno and permeated by the sense of anguish expressed in the numerous writhing, nude figures, The Gates conveys Rodin's own deeply felt sense of the tragic fate of humanity. Over the years, the artist constantly reworked the doors, adding, subtracting, and altering figures and their relationships. Many of his most memorable individual sculptures, including The Thinker, began as figures for The Gates. The planned museum in Paris for which the doors had been commissioned remained unbuilt, however, and Rodin's great project existed only in plaster when he died. It was the Philadelphia theater entrepreneur Jules Mastbaum who commissioned the first two bronze casts of the doors, one for his native city and the other for the Musée Rodin in Paris. Today the Philadelphia cast still stands at the entrance to the Rodin Museum that Mastbaum gave to the City of Philadelphia. Christopher Riopelle, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 210.

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