Slowly the Uber driver pulled up right at the entrance to the museum of Rodin, on Rue de Varenne. I hastily stepped out of the car and thought to myself finally after two failed attempts to visit this museum I get to view the largest Rodin collection in the world. Standing on the street I overhear tourists talking “omg this is the same museum as in Philadelphia, The Thinker, ya we’ve seen him, what’s the point?” Point being would you rather see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre or a replica hung in someone’s living room? They both are the same painting just one is the original artwork of Leonardo da Vinci and the other well let’s just say a very creative work of a nice printer. You don’t hear hundreds of thousands of people lining up around the Mona Lisa, questioning their presence at the museum. Now getting back on track, sure there are many versions of the Thinker around the world, just like the one in Philidelphia. However, hôtel Biron (a historical monument) was where the pioneer of modern sculpture, Rodin created masterpieces and to me, it felt like looking at the originals (no matter how many versions exist). Not once did I wonder if traveling this far, to see something I could have seen back home was worthwhile.
A bit of history behind the museum, built between the years of 1727 and 1732. From the begging, the property had its fair share of occupants, such as Abraham Peyrenc de Moras a wealthy financier (who stared the building proses), Louis-Antoine de Gontaut-Biron Marshal Biron, and even the Emperor of Russia made this estate his embassy. Among the many owners and occupants, a religious society founded by three nuns was established here. Shortly after the society dissolved and the sisters were evicted, and the property was left vacant with no actual owner. In that time artist such as Jean Cocteau, Henri Matisse, Isadora Duncan and Clara Westhoff had the opportunity to rent workspace in the hotel. Among the artist, Augustin Rodin rented four ground floor rooms that transformed into his studio. In 1911, the property was sold to the French government and all the artist were asked to leave except Rodin. He was allowed to solely occupied the entire estate, with a promise to gifting all his work to the French nation. The government established the museum in 1916 and opened its doors to the public in 1919. Today it holds the largest Rodin collection, with more than 6,000 sculptures and 7,000 works on paper. Visiting this museum was one of the focal points of my visit to Paris.
Walking around the sculpture garden, wearing my new ETRO kimono, and a corset I felt like a queen or maybe a time traveler who leaped back to the year of 1908. That was the year Rodin started placing his favorite bronze creations for display around the garden. Nowadays the courtyard is filled with world famous sculptures. It seems as thou each large figure has some sort of a connection to the Gates of Hell. For example, the thinker was sculpted to represent the poet Dante the author of the Divine Comedy which inspired The Gates of Hell. A smaller version of the tinker is positioned underneath the shades, in his pose he is trying to figure out how to express his anguish through poetry. The three shades are the centerpiece to the Gates. In their agonizing position with an awkward bend neck, they look down onto the spectators with a specific intention to point out “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”. A total of two hundred small figures can be spotted on the iron Gates creating a masterpiece!
The hotel that now functions as a museum, holds smaller statues, paintings, drawings, and an array of photos. Although many improvements have been made over the year to this estate, the esthetic and the aura of a talented sculptor is still felt today.