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The Core Curriculum

The Gates of Hell, by Auguste Rodin, 1880-1917

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The Gates of Hell (otherwise known as ''La Porte de l'Enfer'' in French) is a monumental sculptural group work by French artist Auguste Rodin that depicts scenes from the first section of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, "The Inferno."

Many of the details and individual figures were enlarged and became works of art of their own. Upon closer inspection you might notice a series of familiar narrative moments and subjects that are now among the artist's most canonical works, as for example:

The Thinker (Le Penseur), also called The Poet, which is located above the door panels. One interpretation suggests that it might represent Dante looking down to the characters in the Inferno. Another interpretation is that the Thinker is Rodin himself meditating about his composition. Others believe that the figure may be Adam, contemplating the destruction brought upon mankind because of his sin.

The Kiss (Le Baiser) was also originally in The Gate along with other figures of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini. Rodin wanted to represent their initial joy as well as their final damnation.

Ugolino and His Children (Ugolin et ses enfants) depicts Ugolino della Gherardesca, who according to the story, ate the corpses of his children after they died by starvation (Dante, Inferno, Canto XXXIII). The Ugolino group was cast as a separate bronze in 1882.

The Three Shades (Les trois Ombres), who stand above the Thinker, originally pointed to the famous phrase: "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" ("Abandon all hope, ye who enter here") from Canto 3 of the Inferno.

For a history of this "damned" work watch this fascinating little documentary:


The Gates of Hell: Auguste Rodin|Musée Rodin via WikiMedia Commons

Artistic Response
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