The Gates of Hell is one of the famous collections at The National Museum of Western Art, Japan. Intrigued by the story behind his name that makes me cringe? The National Museum of Western Art, located in Ueno, is a museum that exhibits various collections originating from Europe, including works by famous French artist Auguste Rodin.
One of Rodin’s best-known works here is The Gates of Hell. As the name suggests, this statue is a three-dimensional gate with a height of 6 meters, a length of 4 meters, and a width of 1 meter. This bronze coated gate holds a story which is poured in relief.
Reporting from the official website of the museum, Rodin initially made this gate as the entrance to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1880. In its manufacture, he was inspired by the classic literature entitled Divine Comedy by Italian literary writer, Dante Alighieri. He took the first part of the Divine Comedy, Inferno, or means hell in Italian, to be adopted in the form of a gate statue.
Although inspired by Inferno, Rodin also developed his work based on his own imagination. For artistic inspiration, he relied on the Michelangelo statue and the Ghiberti Heaven Gate in Florence. At the gate, there are more than 180 figures who appear to struggle to free themselves from the Gates of Hell. They are described as figures who want to get out of sadness and unfulfilled desires.
The Association for Public Art explains some of the meanings of relief that exist at the Gates of Hell. The ‘Three Shades’ statue located at the very top of the gate is inspired by Dante’s work. ‘ Three Shades ‘ depicts the spirits of the dead who stand at the top of the gate and designate the suffering figures below.
Right below them is the statue of ‘The Thinker’which has a variety of interpretations, ranging from Dante who was looking at Inferno figures, Rodin who thought of the statue he made, to Adam who was contemplating seeing the chaos he made after eating the forbidden fruit. Then moving down, at the door to the left is a picture of Ugolino and his sons suffering from hunger until the children die.
Then right below him are Paolo and Francesca’s lovers who are the characters in Dante’s work. Paolo tried to grab Francesca who slipped. Meanwhile on the right door frame, at the very bottom was a bearded man who was kneeling, thought to represent Rodin himself. And at the bottom of the gate are graves that remind that the door is the entrance to hell.
Rodin’s gate was originally not coated with bronze. This new gate was exhibited with bronze around the 1920s. Besides being exhibited at The National Museum of Arts, Japan, the Hell Gate is also exhibited at 6 other places, for example, Rodin Museum, Philadelphia and Musee Rodin, Paris.