Le Penseur (The Thinker)
Signed A. Rodin with repeat raised interior signature
Inscribed Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris
Bronze with a rich black and dark brown patina
Height: 15" (38 cm)
Conceived in 1880, this cast was executed circa 1925. The Comité Rodin estimates that forty-five casts were made of the Thinker in the present size. The Alexis Rudier foundry made eight casts during Rodin's lifetime. All further casts were made for the Musée Rodin by the Alexis Rudier foundry before 1945.
Conceived in 1880, this cast was executed circa 1925. In total, the Comité Rodin estimate that there were forty-five casts made of the Thinker in the present size. The Alexis Rudier foundry made eight casts during Rodin’s lifetime. All further casts were made for the Musée Rodin by the Alexis Rudier foundry before 1945.
The Thinker is perhaps the most iconic sculpture of all time. Since its initial conception in 1880, it has become celebrated not only as a masterpiece of artistic endeavor but also an image inscribed into popular culture and recognisable the world over.
Rodin conceived the work for the tympanum of The Gates of Hell. In his final design the muscular naked figure dominates the great portal, looking down over the inferno below and the viewer who looks up at him. Rodin originally saw the figure as representing Dante himself, but later amended this idea and instead created a more generalised figure, symbolising the very essence of thought and creativity.
Rodin argued in a letter published by the newspaper Gil Blas in 1904. ‘Guided by my first inspiration I conceived another thinker, a naked man, seated upon a rock, his feet drawn under him, his fist against his teeth, he dreams. The fertile thought slowly elaborates itself within his brain. He is no longer dreamer, he is creator’.
The Thinker belongs to a number of works inspired by Michelangelo, which Rodin modelled in the early 1800s. Rodin had visited Italy in 1875 and here compositional references to Il Penseroso can be clearly seen. Rodin also looked at the masters of the 19th century and undoubtedly referenced Carpeaux’s Ugolino (1861) in the present model. Indeed, Rodin even owned a small bronze cast of the work, where Ugolino is seen with his chin on his hand and elbow resting heavily on his knee.
Rodin drew on the influence of both Michelangelo and Carpeaux, combining compositional elements with his own vigorous modeling to produce what would become a pure embodiment of the process of the thought. ‘What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes’ argued the sculptor.
The Thinker was much sought after during Rodin’s lifetime by both collectors and museums. Rodin had the work cast in three sizes, a reduction (of which this is an example), in the original 72cm size and also a monumental size. One of the enlargements, which Rodin began working on in 1902 was presented to the City of Paris in 1904 and was first sited in front of the Pantheon. This cast is now in the collection of the Musée Rodin.
The Gates of Hell, Musée Rodin
The Thinker, Musée Rodin