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Varenne station, with its two famous sculptures – the Thinker and Honoré de Balzac – are a gateway to the Musée Rodin and Dante’s Gates of Hell.
Onlookers at Varenne station ask themselves the same question: what is he thinking? The Rodin sculpture has been waiting for its train since 1978 on the main platform but can’t decide whether to get on board or go home, to the nearby Rodin Museum. Perhaps he’s wondering what the non-stop hustle and bustle is about– the Thinker, after all, is a poet. For its creator, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), he portrays Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), author of the Divine Comedy. The statue was initially intended for the tympanum of the Gates of Hell, commissioned by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The piece, now on display on the Rodin Museum, was completed in 1928. The original Thinker was 70 centimeters tall, but the model was soon after displayed alone and enlarged in 1904 to monumental proportions. Famous worldwide, over twenty castings of the sculpture exist. The one at Varenne was installed when the station was fitted out with other Rodin works and a display case of photos and drawings which have since been removed. Today, only the Thinker and a statue of novelist and journalist Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) remain. In the space of a metro journey, the Divine Comedy joins the Human Comedy – a nice thought!
Born into a modest family in 1840 in Paris, Auguste Rodin is considered one of the most important sculptors of the 19th century. He played a decisive role in modern sculpture, and his work is characterized by a greatly free hand and choice of subject, freedom in the bodies he sculpted, and an uncanny sensation of movement. He died in 1917 and is buried in Meudon in the garden of the Villa des Brillants. The home is now a museum dedicated to the artist, along with the Hôtel de Biron on Rue de Varenne in Paris, which are jointly administered as the Musée Rodin.