Auguste Rodin's "The Three Shades"
The Gates of Hell was Rodin’s first major commission. In 1880, the French government asked him to design entrance doors for a museum of decorative arts to be built in Paris. Rodin decided to depict The Inferno of Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, written in the 14th century. Rodin’s work, its form based on that of typical cathedral doors, provides images of people condemned to Hell for eternity, the result of their sins on Earth. Rodin’s monumental sculpture was never cast in bronze during his lifetime; the French government canceled the commission when it decided to use the designated site for a train station instead. Ironically, the train station today is the Musée d’Orsay, which includes in its collection one of the plaster casts of Rodin’s Gates.
Removed from atop Gates of Hell were three muscular figures, turning to each other, pointing, and looking downward into the morass of Hell, which they are about to enter and which they warn of “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” These are The Three Shades. Their poses, their muscles, and their expressions all speak to Rodin’s interest in Michelangelo. As was typical of how Rodin worked, eventually the individual shades became fodder for his imagination, fueling his creative use and reuse of parts.
This sculpture is on view in the Rabiah Gallery, generously lent to the FIA by Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.
Auguste Rodin, French, 1840–1917. The Three Shades, MR cast 10 in 1981. Bronze. 41 x 38 x 21 inches. On loan from Iris Cantor, L2018.2