Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Height 144.5 cm
Inscribed 'A. Rodin' on upper surface of base, 'Alexis Rudier./Fondeur, Paris' on back of base
Museum no. A.36-1914
Given by the artist
Rodin frequently explored the further possibilities that arose from existing projects, revisiting the form, scale, material and, most significantly, the intention of his ideas. The Muse began as small-scale figure on The Gates of Hell portal, where it appears on the right of the central tympanum (the rectangular area of relief sculpture immediately above the doors).
Rodin later developed the figure as The Inner Voice, one of two muses intended for the monument to the French writer Victor Hugo, commissioned in 1886. His composition showed a naked Hugo flanked by two naked muses. The commissioners rejected this proposal as unsuitable for its proposed location in the Panthéon, though they allowed him to continue with the project.
Then, after many revisions, Rodin arrived at this figure. By amputating the arms and excising the drapery that covered the knee, he removed all extraneous detail. The figure now signalled Rodin's increasingly conceptual approach to sculpture. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who worked as Rodin's secretary for a time, wrote of it, 'Again and again in his figures Rodin returned to this bending inward, to this intense listening to one's own depth… Never was human body assembled to such an extent about its inner self, so bent by its own soul'.