“WHO BROKE THROUGH THE GATES OF HELL”
AUGUSTE RODIN. French sculptor. A sepia tone print of an etching of a group of idolized nude men dancing in a circle, inscribed at the top “For Jacques Renaud, who broke through the Gates of Hell, Auguste Rodin”.
According to the Rodin Museum, “The Gates of Hell” occupied a unique place in Rodin’s oeuvre. Working feverishly on this project for several years, he created over 200 figures and groups that formed a breeding ground for ideas which he drew on for the rest of his working life. Having hoped to exhibit his “Gates” at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, but probably too busy to finish them, the sculptor stopped working on them circa 1890.
He did, however, express his desire to complete them on several occasions. In 1900, he decided to finally unveil them at his first solo exhibition in Paris. But they were shown in a fragmentary state, since he had given up the idea of mounting the figures that stood out the most – the individual figures cast separately from the main structure – because he thought they produced too strong an effect of contrast with the background.
In 1907, “The Gates” almost saw the day in a luxury bronze and marble version to be erected in the Musée du Luxembourg, which housed works purchased by the French state from contemporary artists.
Not until 1917 did Léonce Bénédite, the Musée Rodin’s first curator, manage to persuade the sculptor to allow him to reconstruct his masterpiece in order to have it cast in bronze. Rodin died before seeing the result of these long years of effort. In an antiqued gilt frame measuring 14 inches wide by 15 inches high.