Le Penseur (The Thinker)
Acquired by an important American collection.
Signed A. Rodin with repeat raised interior signature
Inscribed Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris
Bronze with a black patination with lighter brown highlights
Height: 14 inches (37.5 cm)
Conceived circa 1880-1881, this example cast 1927
Conceived in 1880. This example cast in 1927 by the Alexis Rudier Foundry. Rodin produced three sizes of the Thinker, which are known as Grand, Moyen and Petit Modèles. Fifty-two casts of the latter size, of which the present sculpture is an example, are recorded in the Musée Rodin archives. Only eight of these are lifetime.
Le Penseur (The Thinker) was originally conceived for the tympanum of The Gates of Hell, which it dominates. According to Rodin’s first plan, the sculpture was meant to represent Dante, surrounded by all the characters of the Gates. This changed however to a symbolic figure, a symbol of the poet and his creative genius.
Originally executed in 1880–1881, The Thinker belongs to the group of major early works strongly inspired by Michelangelo, whose sculpture greatly affected Rodin when he first visited Italy in 1875. In 1917, Rodin described what is perhaps his most famous work as follows:
“...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 toe.”
As The Thinker was much sought after by collectors and art institutions, Rodin had it cast in three sizes: the original size, an enlarged one, and a reduced version for the collectors’ market, of which the present sculpture is an example. The first larger cast was made in 1902 before being presented to the City of Paris in 1906. It was originally sited in front of the Pantheon and then moved to the Musée Rodin in 1922.
The present bronze was cast by the Alexis Rudier Foundry, with whom Rodin had entered into an agreement to cast this work. These exclusive rights were granted for a period of fifty years, starting in 1902.
The Gates of Hell, Musée Rodin
The Thinker, Musée Rodin