About This Artwork

Auguste Rodin
French, 1840—1917

Adam, Modeled 1881, cast about 1924

Bronze with dark brown patina
198.1 x 73.7 cm (78 x 29 in.); base: 76.2 x 73.7 cm (30 x 29 in.)

Gift of Robert Allerton, 1924.4

Auguste Rodin’s powerfully expressive figure of Adam was originally intended to be paired with a sculpture of Eve, flanking a sculptured bronze portal commissioned by the French government for the Musée de Arts Décoratifs, Paris. For this monumental undertaking, which he entitled The Gates of Hell, Rodin turned to past Italian masters. Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome (1508–12) inspired the pose of Rodin’s subject. Rodin rotated Michelangelo’s reclining Adam and transferred the frescoed figure’s gesture of receiving life from God to the sculpture’s right arm. The exaggerated turn of Adam’s left arm comes from Michelangelo’s sculpture of the dead Christ in his Pietà (1548–55; Museo del Duomo, Florence). Rodin chose the portal’s theme from Dante’s fourteenth-century epic poem Inferno; here Adam’s agonized body strikingly conveys the sufferings caused by original sin. Although the museum building was never constructed and the portal was not completed as originally conceived, Rodin explored the expressive potential of the human body as few artists before him had dared. As independent statues, Adam and Eve are among the commission’s numerous progeny. Not until 1938 was the gate cast in bronze and placed at the entrance to the grounds of the Musée Rodin, Paris.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 219.

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