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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:38

Video transcript

we're the Musee d'Orsay and we're looking at a cast from 1917 the year that Rodin died of his the gates of Hell which is this huge project that the artist worked on for the last decades of his life that he never finished and in fact we're not even sure how it fits together because it was found in pieces in his studio we're looking at a plaster cast it's impossible to think about doors without thinking about Coverity stores on the baptistry of the Cathedral of Florence which were called the gates of paradise because they were so beautiful because of course those depict biblical scenes from the old and new testament but here were really unmoored from that tradition from that iconography the literary tradition is referring back to Dante but ever so loosely we have Dante at the top there right he's in the tympani you know that's also a standalone sculpture which is called the thinker and is here Dante gazing into hell we should actually say this was a commission and this was intended to be for a building on the site of the musee d'orsay which was to be a Museum of decorative arts which was never built but this was a commission that Rodin got and when he had finished the design of the doors he was ready to cast it but then the project itself fell through so he kept working on it and the sculpture continued to evolve you do see so many figures that you recognize the standalone sculptures by Rodin but the thing that strikes me most is just how much the figures emerge from the background of the doors and I said background sort of in quotes and the door should be an Andorian because they never function but it's like the doors don't even look like solid forms they're like vapour from which these forms emerge and spill out into our space it's almost as if we imagine the surface of those doors to be the surface of the ocean waves coming forward and these figures rising and then fall right and there's this constant sense of motion and undulation form taking shape and then proceeding into indistinctness eternal becoming the standalone figures that we're seeing are tragic we have Paolo and Francesca Ugolino the figures who Dante finds in Hell being tortured and punished for their sins on earth all the way at the top instead of angels we have three shades these are figures that repeat one figure that's seen three times almost a cinema graphic look creating a unified form with shoulders that actually create a flat plateau and three arms that pull our eye down into the gates themselves you know I'm so reminded of Michelangelo when I look at all of these figures and the expressive power of the body especially the male body and also the way that some of the forms are fragmented reminds me of looking at ancient Greek and Roman sculpture this is a really modern reinvention of sculpture yes clearly informed by Michelangelo clearly informed by the classical but this notion of the fragment itself reuse reworking very much a modern notion the forms although derived from the narrative of Dante's Inferno come to take on a more Universal significance about the human condition about suffering sin emotion and power of the body you