Gates of Hell / Gates of Paradise

This may only be post number 2, but as can probably be guessed, there’s been a bit of a backlog in the pipeline that I’ve been hoping to share. Mostly to do with inspiration, process and general happenings towards the end of this MA.

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It would be wrong not to mention Rodin’s Gates of Hell. I distinctly remember standing under a replica of the door outside the Royal Academy of Arts 10 years ago. There was a retrospective exploring the range of his works.

The Gates are particularly interesting in his body of work as it includes a number of his most well known works including The Thinker and The Kiss. The sheer talent and exceptional skill shown in this sculpture is breathtaking. It is a reminder of Greek, Roman and Renaissance sculptors, and plays on the idealism drama and romanticism of Dante’s Inferno.

I’ve bought this up not just because its a door, and I made a door (or a door-frame / extended fireplace found in a skip), but because of the impact it had on me 10 years ago. Standing in front of such a disproportionate object with endless intricacies has had an effect on me. I’ve felt the same way in front of a number of classical, (or classically inspired) sculptures. It is both the sense of realism, tradition and brute labour that attract me. Then, last but not least, there is the sobering story of the work. Dante’s Inferno, the first book of his Divine Comedy. Rodin meticulously visualises the circles of hell, and places, The Thinker at the helm, looking down on it all. Historians have thought that Rodin meant for this to be Dante himself.

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Perhaps I should have begun here, (appears less sinister, or then again, maybe we like happier endings.) We can’t talk about Rodin’s Gates of Hell without considering its key inspiration.

Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise.

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This piece was created considerably earlier and in fact Rodin’s door was a direct response to it. The door’s name was coined by Michelangelo. After he saw the door, the name seemed to stick. As these are the doors to Florence’s baptistery of San Giovanni, each panel represents a different biblical tale.

These are the East Doors of the building. On the North side is a door made by Fillippo Brunelleschi who is accredited to have produced the first sculptural panels with linear perspective. Perspective became the rage across artists and thinkers in the 14th and 15th centuries. It began a new way of seeing, and capturing everyday life. No longer were altars and panel paintings fixed to 2 dimensions. The use of linear perspective is clearly seen in a number of Ghiberti’s panels, in fact, the third panel down on the right would have been particularly difficult. He manages to show a circular building in perspective.

Anyway, again, its another set of doors, and again, I have a distinct memory of being mesmerised as I stood in front of it 8 years ago. Perhaps there’s a link between my experience as a viewer and my interest in creating a door of my own, perhaps not, but these overwhelming and elaborate doors are common place in buildings of worship. As you step through them, there is an immediate impact of surrounding, spirituality and serenity. Then again, just like my door, you can’t walk through either of these Gates. Perhaps there’s meaning in there as well.

 

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