It is imposing without being utterly frightening. Rodin ... also included some unexpected things, like The Kiss within the doors and perhaps that little bit of romance and sweetness is the reason that we are not terrified of this massive vision of Hell’s Door.
At approximately 1:00 am on March 24, 1970, a bomb irreparably damaged the Cleveland Museum's version of Rodin’s The Thinker. The bomb itself had been placed on a pedestal that supported the enlargement and had the power of about three sticks of dynamite.
No one was injured, but the statue's base and lower legs were destroyed. The remaining sections of the cast were blown backward to form a 'plume' at the base, and the entire statue was knocked to the ground. . . .
According to the Cleveland Police Department, this act of vandalism was committed by the Weather Underground. [This occurred just eighteen days after a Weather Underground group blew themselves up in a Greenwich Village townhouse. ] [N]o one was ever arrested or charged.
The incident highlighted some of the ethical and practical issues inherent in the field of conservation. Since the piece was so dramatically damaged, the Museum was unsure how to proceed.
They considered three options:
Display the damaged sculpture.
The third option was chosen largely because it preserved what was left of Rodin’s original work and because the damaged sculpture would bear vivid witness to a period of political unrest in the United States during the Vietnam War. Like the museum's other outdoor sculptures, The Thinker now receives routine maintenance twice a year. It is washed and rewaxed each spring and fall.
Tradition of Outdoor Public Placement
Because the original Gates of Hell were designed as outdoor sculpture, and Rodin's first enlargement was placed outdoors in front of the Pantheon, most of Rodin's subsequent enlargements have ended up outdoors as well [including one located over the grave of Auguste and Rose Rodin]. Unfortunately this leaves these works unprotected from both the elements and the public.
Although created for The Gates of Hell, The Thinker took on an alternate significance and became a symbol of freedom and knowledge.
To some—though hardly all—of the people sitting in that theater watching the casting of The Gates of Hell, it must have occurred that they were witnessing the making of a fake. After all, Rodin has been dead since 1918, and surely a work of his produced more than sixty years after his death cannot be the genuine article, cannot, that is, be an original....
.... At the time of Rodin’s death The Gates of Hell stood in his studio like a mammoth plaster chessboard with all the pieces removed and scattered on the floor. The arrangement of the figures on The Gates as we know it reflects the most current notion the sculptor had about its composition, an arrangement documented by numbers penciled on the plasters corresponding to numbers located at various stations on The Gates. But these numbers were regularly changed as Rodin played with and recomposed the surface of the doors; and so, at the time of his death, The Gates were very much unfinished.
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