The Hotel Biron, next to the Les Invalides complex, used to be the home and working space of the world’s celebrated sculptor and artist, Auguste Rodin, who is famous for creating various dramatic and expressive works of art. Being bequeathed to the state under the condition that it be turned into a museum upon Rodin’s death, the Hotel Biron exhibits around four hundred works of art, the largest collection of Rodin’s work in the world. The collection is enriched with acquisitions created by people associated with Rodin (Camille Claudel, for example, who was his muse and mistress) and other famous artists whose masterpieces were owned by Rodin: Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh.
A couple of good reasons to visit the Hotel Biron
The world-renowned artist drew inspiration from acknowledged literary masterpieces of all times, such as Dante’s Divine Comedy, and historic events. A couple of other prominent personalities of his time posed for Rodin, Victor Hugo for example, whose busts are exhibited in the museum premises. The museum’s marvelous art collection, however, isn’t the only reason you should visit the Museum Rodin.
The museum’s peaceful and beautiful gardens, the Rose and Ornamental Gardens, which can be entered separately from the museum (4 EUR – 4.40 USD), should also be considered when a visit to the Hotel Biron is contemplated. Pay attention to the themed areas named the Garden of Orpheus and the Garden of Springs. Another convenience for non-French speaking visitors is the availability of information in English, which can’t be said for the majority of Paris’s museums and galleries.
Auguste Rodin’s Divine Comedy inspired masterpieces
The astounding ‘The Thinker’ sculpture, located in the gardens, is among the most famous and celebrated sculptures ever. The masterpiece isn’t the original, but is sculpted according to a model that graces ‘The Gates of Hell’ sculpture, which refers to the Divine Comedy. The sculpture illustrates Dante himself, a free-minded and tortured person, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell.
The monumental ‘The Gates of Hell’ sculpture is another unrepeatable masterpiece, and you should use the attached magnifying glass to fully appreciate. The original ‘The Thinker’ is placed atop the doorway in ‘The Gates of Hell’, and topped by ‘The Three Shades’ whose harmonized stances, pointing to Hell, deliver a grim message: “All of you who enter these gates, leave hope outside”. Although it doesn’t seem so at first glance, the sculpture is composed of around 200 characters, some of which were made by Camille Claudel.
Other episodes inspired by the Divine Comedy are ‘Kiss’, performed by lovers Paolo and Francesca, who ended up in Hell once Francesca’s husband killed them, starved and carnivorous Count Ugolino devouring his children, etc.
Rodin’s masterpieces inspired by history and mythology
The related photo illustrates one of the numerous dramatic episodes of the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453). Following the English siege of the fortified town of Calais, the English offered to the town’s leaders to spare their subjects in exchange for their surrender. ‘The Burghers of Calais’ statue clearly expresses the divergent emotions of these men, who are torn between their survival instincts and their duty. Just for the record, these brave men, although imprisoned, were later spared and liberated.
As you make your way through Hotel Biron’s extraordinary collection, you are sure to recognize statues of Adam and Eve. While Adam’s physically powerful appearance is constrained by invisible forces, Eve’s stance brings to the surface the regret over being cast out from Eden.
What else can you see in the Rodin Museum?
Being one of the best known sculptors of all times, Rodin was never finicky about choosing the material to work on. Throughout the museum you can see samples and masterpieces carved in marble, clay, plaster and other materials, some of them later clad in bronze. You are sure to recognize portraits and statues of Honore de Balzac and Victor Hugo, the latter being a part of the related photo’s composition.
Being Rodin’s associate and inspiration, Camille Claudel is also well represented by the museum’s exhibition. One of a few surviving works of art created by this talented artist is ‘The Gossips’, depicting a woman talking to her friends while clearly attempting to keep the content of their talking within the circle. Camille destroyed most of her creations in the years that followed her and Rodin’s break-up.
Prepare your visit
To tour the comprehensive art collection of the Rodin Museum in Hotel Biron and the attached gardens, up to two hours would suffice for a quick visit. Admission that combines the museum’s exhibition with the gardens is 10 EUR (11 USD), while holders of the Paris Museum Pass have free entrance. The museum operates daily with the exception of Mondays and major holidays.
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