Artwork Detail

The Shade
French, 1840–1917
74 1/4 x 35 1/2 x 31 "
Gift of Morton D. May in honor of William N. Eisendrath, Jr., 1968
WU 4393
The French artist Auguste Rodin is widely considered to be the father of modern sculpture. The Shade, created in 1880 in cast bronze, exemplifies Rodin’s expressive rendering of the male nude body. It was originally intended as one of a trio of figures decorating the artist’s monumental bronze doors, titled The Gates of Hell, undertaken for the proposed Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris beginning in 1880. Rodin was greatly influenced by Michelangelo’s painting of the Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome. For The Shade Rodin altered the pose of Michelangelo’s reclining Adam by making the figure upright with his hand gesturing downward instead of outward. In classical literature, a “shade” is another name for a spirit or ghost. Dante in The Divine Comedy uses that term to refer to the souls one meets in the underworld. This is a tormented figure, and Rodin conveys this through posture and anatomical distortion. The angle at which the head bends down is so exaggerated that the neck and shoulders almost align horizontally. It was through such manipulation of the human form that Rodin achieved a powerful expressiveness in sculpture unparalleled in his time. The highly textured surface of the bronze heightens the energy and dynamism of the body while also showing the physical traces of the artist’s process of sculpting. [Cell phone tour, 2019]