Rodin: The Thinker

Auguste Rodin French, Le Penseur (The Thinker), 1902. Bronze. On loan from a private collection, 2778.001 Photo: Ernest Mayer


The French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) created the sculpture called Le Penseur (The Thinker) as the central figure in his monumental work, The Gates of Hell, which he began in 1880 and worked on until his death in 1917. Based on Dante’s Inferno, the first book in The Divine Comedy, the commission was for a large doorway surround for the future Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. Originally called Le Poète (The Poet), the seated figure was positioned directly above the door, prompting a number of possible identifications including Dante, the biblical Adam, and the artist himself. Foundry workers named the work The Thinker given its likeness to Michelangelo’s statue of Lorenzo de Medici in Florence. Using a pantograph-like device that aided with the reproduction of sculptures in various sizes and materials, Rodin created a colossal version (double in size to the original) in 1902 as an independent work. While a few of these large-scale bronze casts were made during his lifetime, the majority were produced posthumously from the original plaster molds with the permission of the Rodin Museum in Paris, including this work on loan to the WAG from a private collection. 


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