(A full-size version of this image is here)
- Where did "The Kiss" come from?: Called "Le Baiser" (The Kiss) in French, this sculpture was originally part of the "Gates of Hell." The Gates were based on Dante's epic poem "The Inferno," in which sinners were placed in parts of Hell corresponding to the atrocities they had committed. Paolo is Francesca's tutor and brother-in-law. They fall in love. While reading "Lancelot and Guinevere," they kiss and are soon killed by Francesca's husband. Closer look: Turns out they're not actually kissing. Supposedly this sculpture is a snapshot of the moment before they actually kiss. You can decide for yourself. (see close-up below)
- 360 Degrees: Museums usually present art with one side against the wall, but Rodin's work is meant to be seen 360 degrees around, not just from the front. Like Michelangelo's work (featured last week), Rodin's male and female figures are muscular. In contrast to Michelangelo, Rodin's work has uneven surfaces and sometimes even his fingerprints, giving the work the visceral feel of being sculpted from hands. For those who walk all the way around the sculpture, the sculpture changes at every angle. Closer look: Rodin rewards the careful onlooker with a few surprises. Towards the back of the sculpture, you can see that Paolo is still holding the book that they were reading. (See close-up below) Other examples are in "The Thinker" ((lopsided "ear" is thought to be a scholar's cap).
- Déjà-vu: "The Kiss" shown above is in marble, but a quick image search shows version in bronze too. What gives? Rodin often made copies of his work in different sizes and materials and also recycled them as parts of different works. Bronze casting lends itself to the making of multiple replicas. This was a team effort with other craftsmen, especially in replicating the works in marble. If they're so easy to replicate, why don't I have a copy of "The Kiss" in my backyard? Well, the French government has rules on how many replicas of each work can be made. Closer look: "The Kiss" in bronze, photographed from a different angle. (See close-up below)
The great part about bronze casting and marble replicas is that there is probably a French government-certified version of Rodin's work, or similar works, somewhere near you:
- San Francisco Area/Stanford: Check out some Rodin sculptures on the way to class - "The Burghers of Calais" are right in the middle of Stanford's Main Quad and you probably bike past them several times a day anyway. The Cantor Arts Center has one of the largest collections of Rodin sculptures outside of France. It's right on campus. You don't even have to go inside the museum - Rodin's work is part of an outdoor sculpture garden that looks great both during the day and has a mysterious glow at night.
- New York: Not exactly Rodin's work inside, but the Neue Galerie has German and Austrian art from a similar era (early 20th century European art). Located in an elegant mansion on 86th and 5th, right by Central Park, the art is as stunning as its surroundings. The Neue Galerie has the work of Gustav Klimt, who incidentally made a totally different version of "The Kiss" located elsewhere. The Café Sabarsky is a historical site and a culinary experience in its own right (a little pricey, but hey it's NY, you live once, etc.).
- Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago has some of Rodin's sculptures and drawings.
- London: The Tate Modern has a marble version of "The Kiss" on display. There's actually something called the "Tate to Tate Boat" that takes you between the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern.
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