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Overview

Nineteenth-century viewers and critics were immediately taken with Rodin's three-dimensional group, entitled Paolo and Francesca, the passionate lovers from the fifth canto of Dante's Inferno. When one enthusiastic critic referred to it as The Kiss, the new title stuck, and the association with Dante's ill-fated lovers gave way to a more contemporary, universal response to their passionate embrace.

By including only one specific reference to the lovers' story (Paolo holds in his left hand the book of courtly love they read together), Rodin encouraged viewers to become immersed in the spiraling rhythms of the entwined bodies and the sensuous finish of smooth limbs against pitted rock.

Rodin had intended to include this work in his monumental Gates of Hell, the high-relief sculptural doors that he would cover with figures from Dante's Divine Comedy. But the sculptor removed the pair of lovers from the Gates, instead developing it as an independent grouping. The original bronze sculpture (almost three feet high) was reproduced in bronze and marble, in both enlarged and reduced versions. The National Gallery's diminutive golden bronze work (under ten inches) is one of sixty-nine versions of this size. In 1902 Rodin presented it as a souvenir to a loyal American patron, Kate Simpson, after she posed for her portrait bust in the sculptor's Paris studio. It bears his personal inscription: "homage to Madame Kate Simpson in memory of hours in the studio. September 1902."

Inscription

on front of rock, stamped below left hip of female figure: RODIN; on left side of rock, in script: hommage à Madame / Kate Simpson / en souvenir des heures / d'atelier Sept 1902 / A. Rodin; stamped below dedication is Collas metal inset: REDUCTION MÉCHANIQUE / A. COLLAS / BREVETE; by hand on right bottom edge, below right foot of male figure: F. BARBEDIENNE, Fondeur; stamped inside cast: R / 407

Marks and Labels

FM (below right foot of male figure): F. BARBEDIENNE Fondeur

Provenance

Purchased 1902 from the artist by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Simpson, New York; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1965
Wax Sculptures by Degas, Sculptures and Drawings by Rodin, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965-1966, no cat.
1975
Metamorphoses in Nineteenth-Century Sculpture, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1975-1976, no. 27d.
1981
Rodin Rediscovered, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1981-1982, not in cat.
1991
Genius Rodin: Eros und Kreativität, Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany; Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany, 1991-1992, no. 14.
Bibliography
1883
Anonymous. "Current Art." Magazine of Art (1883): 176.
1884
Cartwright, Julia. "Francesco da Rimini." Magazine of Art (February 1884): 137-139.
1885
Mirbeau, Octave. "Chronique Parisienne." La France (18 February 1885).
1889
Bartlett, Truman H. "Auguste Rodin, Sculptor." American Architect and Building News (19 January-15 June 1889): 200, 223-225, 249.
1900
"Le Baiser dans l'oeuvre de Rodin." La Critique (20 November 1900).
1906
Lawton, Frederick. The Life and Work of Auguste Rodin. London, 1906: 62-63, 74, 109-110, 184.
1927
Grappe, Georges. Catalogue du Musée Rodin. Paris, 1927: 47.
1944
Grappe, Georges. Catalogue du Musée Rodin. 5th ed. Paris, 1944: 58-59.
1959
Alley, Ronald. Tate Gallery Catalogues: The Foreign Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. London, 1959: 224-226.
1963
Elsen, Albert E. Rodin. New York, 1963: 62-63, 102-103, 134, 191, 199, 209.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 168.
1967
Descharnes, Robert, and Jean-François Chabrun. Auguste Rodin. Lausanne, 1967: 131-135.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 148, repro.
1975
Wasserman, Jeanne L., ed. Metamorphoses in Nineteenth-Century Sculpture. Exh. cat. Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1975: 168-176.
1977
de Caso, Jacques, and Patricia B. Sanders. Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection. San Francisco, 1977: 148-153.
1981
Rosenfeld, Daniel. "Rodin's Carved Sculpture." In Rodin Rediscovered. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1981: 85-87.
1985
Elsen, Albert E. The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin. Stanford, California, 1985: 78-81.
1987
Barbier, Nicolle. Marbres de Rodin: collection du musée. Paris, 1987: 184-187.
1987
Grunfeld, Frederic V. Rodin: A Biography. New York, 1987: 187-190.
1988
Beausire, Alain. Quand Rodin Exposait. Paris, 1988: 95, 96, 126, 211, 277, 327, 349, 351, 367.
1988
Fonsmark, Anne-Birgitte. Rodin: La collection du Brasseur Carl Jacobsen à la Glyptothèque. Copenhagen, 1988: 106-108.
1992
Barbier, Nicolle. Rodin sculpteur: Oeuvres méconnues. Exh. cat. Musée Rodin, Paris, 1992: 187-190.
1993
Rosenfeld, Daniel G. "Auguste Rodin's Carved Sculpture." Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1993: 529-540.
1994
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 204, repro.
1995
Le Normand-Romain, Antoinette. Le Baiser de Rodin. Exh. cat. Musée Rodin, Paris, 1995: 244-319.
1996
Kausch, Michael. Auguste Rodin: Eros und Leidenschaft. Exh. cat. Harrach Palace, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1996: 146-147.
2000
Butler, Ruth, and Suzanne Glover Lindsay, with Alison Luchs, Douglas Lewis, Cynthia J. Mills, and Jeffrey Weidman. European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2000: 326-330, color repro.