04 January 2007

Rodin Museum

Visitors arriving in Paris are understandably overwhelmed by the mere mention of a museum. But let me assure you that even if the word ‘museum’ does not have pleasant associations- with a particular museum in Basel where a handsome Austrian gentleman asked for the pleasure of your company, leading to your first pleasurable sexual experience- the Rodin Museum is a delightful place to spend an afternoon. For it’s the most relaxing of spots, with sculptures distributed under the shade of trees in a lovely garden, with some pieces displayed inside the 18th century Hotel Biron (for those contemplating a visit, please note that in 2007 the building will be closing rooms for refurbishment, loaning several of the works) and there is even an excellent café with an outdoor terrace to sit and watch other aesthetes pass by. One recommends the audio guide: one of the best devices I have ever had the pleasure of handling, each segment introduced with a flourish, courtesy of an operatic aria or a melodramatic extract from a well-known symphony. Quite a delight!

More often than not, sculpture pays homage to what is beautiful, and in this museum you will find great tributes to beauty in a male form: what can be more pleasing to a gay gentleman? One stands lost in silent admiration of what a roughly working or gently stroking hand can achieve; not so much observing as feeling how a well-directed brushing stroke can raise one’s mind to a higher plane. Inside the museum, of the many pieces to admire, one of my own personal favourites is called The Bronze Age. An odd title for the male form stretching, you might remark; the figure extends upward… but for what purpose? It is suggestive of mankind aspiring to achieve his own great potential or a character awakening, perhaps. I do recommend that you enjoy the view from several angles to fully appreciate Rodin’s achievement.

Another favourite piece is not, as you might expect, a finely chiselled Adam… but his fallen partner. Is there not something one might identify with; something suggestive of shame and self-loathing in how she hides her face behind one hand, using another to scratch and claw at her own flesh?

Apparently Rodin felt that on each visit to his studio there was something a little different about his model for this sculpture, observing in due course that she was in fact pregnant. Because of this fortuitous circumstance, Eve was cast as a mother of generations to come, something that can be noted in the abdomen and oblique muscles. Since the model found standing naked to be cold and uncomfortable, she stopped attending Rodin’s studio, which accounts for why Eve remains unfinished, an artwork in a state of eternal gestation.

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