Rodin Works: the three shades


As a variation of 'Adam' with a less distorted attitude, Rodin executed 'The Shades': a triple representation of the same figure, mounted at the top of the 'Gates of Hell'. With their left hands they show down and direct the eyes of the viewer to 'The Thinker', who is located immediately beneath 'The Shades'. This threefold repetition of gesture, focussing in the same point, underlines theThe top of The Gates of Hell with the Three Shades inevitability of fate, echoeing mythological tales like that of the Greek Moirae (Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos). Lampert attributes this repitition to Rodin's intention to reach a more haunting effect and refers to Leo Steinberg, who interpreted Rodin's obsession with repeating forms and patterns as a foreboding of modern painting. Commenting on the 'Three Faunesses', Steinberg wrote:

"By assembling three casts of her, Rodin's wins for himself the painter's advantage. The margins become engaged intervalls, so that the repeat of this one irregular body yields infinite rhythmic amplifications."

In her essay 'Rodin's Gates of Hell: Sculptural illustration of Dante's Divine Comedy' Aida Audeh, however, points to Canto XVI as the literary source of 'The Shades' and their threefold appearance on top of 'The Gates'. In this part of the poem, Dante meets the souls of three Florentine men condemned for the act of sodomy. The punished figures are exposed to a rain of fire and in incessant motion while trying to avoid the scorching heat.

In 1887 Cosmo Monkhouse interpreted 'The Three Shades' as a personification of the first three lines of the inscription over the door of Dante's Hell:

"The Gate of Despair ... The lintel is surmonted by a group of three nude, emaciated, and miserable figures, the plastic translation of the first three lines of the well-known inscription over the door of Dante's hell:

   'Per me si va nella cittą dolente,
    Per me si va nell' eterno dolore,
    Per me si va tra la perduta gente'

... By what sad harmony of unlovely lines the artist has quelled our natural aversion to such a sight, by what subtle touches he has transformed these ghastly images into a voice which stays our feet, possibly M. Rodin himself could scarcely tell but it is something more than a tour de force, for it shows the operation of the born artistic faculty which cannot conceive except in accordance with the great laws of fitness and harmony. The idea is not a pleasant one, but is conveyed with power, and the group is 'ideal' in the plainest sense of the word."



Advanced Search and Search Rules

Advanced Search & Search Rules

Terms of Use  Copyright Policy    Menu missing?  Back one page  Reload this page   Top of this page 

Notice: Museum logos appear only as buttons linking to Museum Websites and do not imply any
formal approval of RODIN-WEB pages by these institutions. For details see Copyright Policy.
© Copyright 1992 - September 2004 for data collection & design by Hans de Roos - All Rights Reserved.
Last update of this page: 01.09.2004