Rodin’s Gates of Hell

Sotheby's
May 2, 2013 7:55PM

The monumental portal known as La Porte d’enfer, commissioned in 1880 and inspired by Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, is perhaps the defining work of Rodin’s career. Although never fully realised, it remains a key to understanding his artistic aims: many of Rodin’s most familiar models derive from the 200-odd single and multi-figural groups that he created for this project and which he tirelessly reworked over a period of 37 years until his death in 1917. Undoubtedly the most famous and influential of these, Le Penseur formed the crowning apex in the tympanum above the doorway. Today it is renowned as an icon of Modernism and one of the most recognisable sculptures of all time. Presented by Rodin as an autonomous composition at the Salon of 1904, its effect on critics and viewers alike was such that it transcended the larger scheme of La Porte d’enferto be revered as a universal symbol of reflection and creative genius in its own right. The present rare and early cast, replicating the size of the original model, was commissioned direct from Rodin by publishing magnate Ralph Pulitzer in 1906. It bears the distinctive plaque that he requested to be appended to the cast, affirming that it had been made under Rodin’s direct supervision.

Two further works from The Gates of Hell are included in the sale: a beautiful lifetime bronze of The Kiss cast in 1909, and a cast of the complex multi-figural group Ugolino and his Children.  Commissioned by Henry Lerolle and cast in 1883, it is the first of just three lifetime bronzes of this very rare model.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
New York | 7 May 2013

Sotheby's
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