The Thinker

The Thinker

c. 1880

Auguste Rodin

(French, 1840-1917)

Bronze

Overall: 70.8 x 34.9 x 59.7 cm (27 7/8 x 13 3/4 x 23 1/2 in.)

Gift of Alexandre P. Rosenberg 1979.138

Description

Rodin originally conceived The Thinker as a depiction of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) sitting in the upper center of a monumental sculptural doorway titled The Gates of Hell (below). Inspired by Dante’s description of a journey through the underworld in his epic poem The Divine Comedy (about 1320), The Thinker contemplates mankind’s fate while gazing at a host of damned figures writhing in anguish below. Stripped of clothing, the figure’s rippling muscles convey an inner, animating life force symbolic of mental activity or creative effort. The figure leans forward, as if ready to spring from his perch, yet seems simultaneously caught in the inaction of deep thought. Rodin produced independent versions of The Thinker, first in this original size and later in a monumental version.

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