The Kiss Analysis
- Alternative Names:
- Francesca da Rimini
- Date of Creation:
- Height (cm):
- Length (cm):
- Width (cm):
- Assisted By:
- Ganier, Rigaud and Mathet
- Art Movement:
- Created By:
- Current Location:
- Paris, France
- Displayed at:
- Musée Rodin
- Musée Rodin
Dante holding The Divine Comedy
The Kiss was hailed as a masterpiece when it was first exhibited in Paris in 1877 and even today it is still one of the most well-known and admired pieces of sculpture in the world. In creating this piece Rodin drew on his experience to capture the mood of a particular moment and managed to create a sense of sensuality and romance.
Rodin drew from his knowledge of Dante's The Divine Comedy and in particularly the story of Paolo and Francesca, an adulterous couple from 13th century Italy. Dante sees the pair in the second circle of Hell and Rodin chose the moment when the lovers first kiss, just before they were brutally murdered by Francesca's husband, Gianciotto Malatesta.
Rodin chose to construct the lovers in the nude as he believed adding details such as clothing distracted the viewer from the raw emotion which they should feel when looking upon a sculpture.
Rodin himself described The Kiss as: "... a theme frequently treated in the academic tradition, a subject complete in itself and artificially isolated from the world surrounding it; it is a big ornament sculpted according to the usual formula and which focuses attention on the two personages instead of opening up wide horizons to daydreams."
The way in which Rodin has entwined the lovers gives this composition movement and energy.
Like many artists of his time, Rodin saw the creation of sculpture as the culmination of minds and relied heavily on the skill of his assistances. Running a large workshop, Rodin meticulously governed the creation of his sculptures, drawing on the experience he gained in commercial workshops during his youth.
For The Kiss Rodin relied on Jean Turcan, who was in charge of carving marble in his workshop. Unfortunately Turcan left the workshop before The Kiss was completed and the original copy of this piece is rough and unfinished.
Rodin's method of making large sculptures was to employ assistant sculptors to copy a smaller model he himself had made from a material which was easier to work with than marble, in many instances clay. Once they had finished, Rodin himself would put the finishing touches to the larger version.
Models and sketches of the early workings of Rodin's The Kiss can still be studied today and these show the development of the sculpture from concept to completion. The Gates of Hell, for which the original, smaller version of the kiss was created, is a great example of numerous small-scale models being turned into full-size sculptures.
The Gates of Hell was never cast in bronze during Rodin's lifetime and as a result of the prolonged time the artist spent working on the plaster version, many of the small models began to dry out and fall off. As this happened Rodin began to remodel these pieces and many of them turned out to be his most successful works. Both The Kiss and The Thinker are part of this elite group of sculptures.
The passion and romance of The Kiss is undeniable, the figures are so involved with each other that their faces can barely be seen. The total embraces with which they hold each other make the tragedy of their love even greater and Rodin draws on themes which all audiences can appreciate in a way which is both romantic and sensual. Although both figures are nude, Rodin's skill as an artist made sure that the way the figures were rendered was in a classical way and one which was not overtly sexual.
As with many of Rodin's sculptures The Kiss is designed to be viewed from every angle and Rodin wanted the piece to be believable and real. The artist certainly creates this and by making a sculpture which is visually stimulating from 360 degrees the dedication and skill of Rodin is successfully demonstrated. The contrast between the smooth skin of the lovers and the rough marble of the rock they are sitting on adds further sensual elements to this piece.