The Hands of Rodin

By LIZ HAGER

There are among the works of Rodin hands, single, small hands which, without belonging to a body, are alive. . .

rodin-hands

Auguste Rodin, Various Hands, unknown dates, plaster and bronze (Legion of Honor, SF).

. . . Hands that rise, irritated and in wrath; hands whose five bristling fingers seem to bark like the five jaws of the dog of Hell. . .

roding-hand-3

Auguste Rodin, Mighty Hand, ca. 1880, cast 1906, bronze (Legion of Honor, SF).

. . . Hands that walk, sleeping hands, and hands that are awakening; criminal hands, tainted with hereditary disease; and hands that are tired and will do no more, and have lain down in some corner like sick animals that know no one can help them. . .

rodin-4

Auguste Rodin, The Three Shades (detail), planned for the Gates of Hell, ca. 1880, enlarged after 1905, (Legion of Honor, SF).

. . . There is a history of hands; they have their own culture, their particular beauty; one concedes to them the right of their own development, their own needs, feelings caprices and tendernesses. . .

rodin-6

Auguste Rodin, John the Baptist Preaching (detail), 1878, bronze (Legion of Honor, SF).


. . . Rodin, knowing through the education which he has given himself, that the entire body consists of scenes of life, of a life that may come in every detail individual and great, has the power to give any part of this vibrating surface the independence of the whole. . .

rodin-hands2

August Rodin, Fugit Amor (detail), ca. 1890s, bronze (Legion of Honor, SF).

. . . As the human body is to Rodin its parts and forces, so on the other hand portions of different bodies that cling to one another from an inner necessity merge into one organism. . .

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Auguste Rodin, Eve,(detail), 1881, plaster model for the bronze sculpture originally planned for Gates of Hell (Legion of Honor, SF).

. . .  A hand laid on another shoulder or thigh does not any more belong to the body from which it came. From this body and from the object which it touches or seizes something new originates, a new thing that has no name and belongs to no one. . .

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Auguste Rodin

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Auguste Rodin, Fallen Angel (detail), 1890, bronze (Legion of Honor, SF).

Wider Connections

More Rodin at the Legion of Honor

Rilke

Auguste Rodin by Rainer Maria Rilke (updated)

Musée Rodin, Paris

Rodin Museum, Philadelphia


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