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“The Eternal Idol” – Sculpture by Auguste Rodin Report

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2020


The Eternal Idol is an art form whose two figures were derived from the gates of hell. Rodin combined the two figures to create a new piece of art, which grew into an instant success. After the creation of the artwork in 1890, the work inspired the creation of a bronze version in 1891 and later an enlargement of the same piece – was carved form marble, which was commissioned by Rodin’s ally, Eugene, Carriere.

The title of the work, “The Eternal Idol,” was highly a symbolist construction, from the exploration of Rodin at the time. This is, especially, the case, as form to him took greater role as compared to subject. As a result, Rodin gave the artwork the name after the work was complete – often, during the course of discussion with allies over the work (La Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 2012).

Identity information

The Eternal Idol is a sculpture artwork by Augustine Rodin, a French artist – who created it in 1889 and redone in 1891 as a bronze cast. An enlargement of the work was carved from marble stone in 1893. The cast stone version is 11 inches in height, 6.5 inches width, and 4 inches in length.

The provenance of the work may be traced to Rodin’s perspective of the couple, where he received inspiration from – facilitating him to communicate all the sensuality, tenderness and the passion that comes along with it. One of the locations where the artwork may be located is the San Dimas, CA, in the USA – preserved by the Talaria enterprises (La Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 2012).

Description of the artwork

The Eternal Idol contains the figure of a woman, that of a man and a solid base on which the two are rested upon. The background of the work is dark, not showing any imagery or color patterning. From the piece, the woman is bending away from the middle line, while the man is inclined towards her direction of inclination. In regard to the level of the two at the platform they are placed on, the woman is placed above the man.

Further, the man seems fully submissive, while the woman seems fully free and non-restricted. The man is also bended, trying to kiss the stomach of the woman, who is at a higher ground. The space between the man and the man is very small; the man’s body is very close to that of the woman, especially the man’s upper body, which is at the lower body of the woman. For example, the man’s head is at the woman’s stomach level.

Except the plane they are resting on, there are no other objects in the artwork. There is no text or symbols on the artwork. In the aspect of landscape, there are no objects that can be identified as part of the artworks landscape, mainly because the artwork is a 3 dimensional object on its own. In the regard of dressing and costumes, the man and the woman are naked. In the aspect of other considerations like weather and environment, there is nothing much to be indentified from the artwork (La Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 2012).

The descriptions of the content learnt

From the study of the artwork, the lessons contained include the fact that Rodin’s creation of this artwork goes against the then constructions of art, according to the neutrality of the impressionists and the views of the basis of romanticism. Rodin’s artwork is principally identifying with his passion for the human body, which he expresses through portraying the romantic identity he identified inside himself.

Further, Rodin is guided by the inclinations of nature, these including the readiness to obey the needs of human nature, these including sensuality, tenderness and the passion. Rodin also indentifies with the controversial themes presented through his artworks, which he identifies as resulting from the inner ability to express feelings and the potential to love (La Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 2012).

The story being told is that artwork is spontaneous and a field which cannot be expressed in an exactitude way, in the manner in which artworks can be created or not, as long as they offer aesthetic and artistic value to the audience. This is expressed in the non-observance of the thoughts of romanticism and neutrality. As a result of the deviance, he was viewed as controversial – though a highly successful artist.

The story is a part of the larger social and mythological contexts of the artwork creation of the time – as the artist is portrayed as one, who goes against the values and the standards expected of them. Rodin further seems to go against the social constructions of the social context of artwork creation, as he fully identifies with following his human feelings in artwork creation – which was not expected by the neutrality of the impressionists.

The significance of the lessons learnt from the study include that spontaneity in artwork creation is promoted, which in itself is a great endowment in nurturing the ability to create original artworks and draw inspiration from self experiences (La Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 2012).

Description of the design elements used

The organization of the sculpture featured the two most important elements in sculpture making, these including space and mass, which are virtually not separable. These are the design elements that play the main role. The mass element is determined by the material substance used during the carving of the Eternal Idol, where the cast stone material has mass and thus, exists in 3 dimensional coverage of space.

The mass of the sculpture may be defined as the solid material, space occupying material, which is covered under the viewable surfaces of the sculpture. The mass of the coverage is simply that which is used in forming the woman, the man, and the solid ground they are placed at. The second design element which is clearly evident from the sculpture is space, which is incorporated into the designing of the artwork in three dissimilar modes (La Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 2012).

The secondary design elements incorporated into the art is volume, which is literally the expanse covered by the mass used during the designing of the artwork, mainly because; the figure is three dimensional, thus covers a given volume. In the case the volume of the artwork is to be measured, this may be done using the liquid displacement method, as the volume of the figure is immeasurable through mainstream formulae, for example L x W x H.

Surface is another element, which is, simply, the viewable layer of the sculpture – which may be characteristic of a certain color and texture. Light and shade are also supporting elements which may be viewed from the shades created by the different figures: the woman and man, and the solid material. Color is another element, where the version made from resin is black, and the plaster version is yellow-orange.

The color used for the artwork has the three basic properties including hue, which is black for the resin version; value, which is dark for the resin version; and purity, which is evident from the black, which is apparently highly pure. The last secondary design element is texture – which is the quality of the surface. For the resin version, the texture of the sculpture is smooth, while that for the plaster version is smooth for the figures of the woman, and rough for the surface the two human figures are set on (West, 1996).

Intent and interpretation of the artwork

The artist sought to communicate the views he held about the female body and reverence for nature and the themes that come with it, these including sensuality, tenderness and the passion incorporated into the different sexes. The sole source of inspiration during the creation of the artwork was the beauty of the female body, which he is trying to express through the artwork.

From his outlook, this beauty is so significant that he portrays the man, as a figure who is fully at the disposal of the woman – due to the level of adoration. These themes are supported from the observations and description from previous sections, where it is clear that an erotic outlook is displayed by the man, who seems very humble towards the woman in the piece. The man, further, is showing a sign of humility towards the world figure, while the woman seems to be free and not restrained by any sentiments, like the man.

Further, the man is expressing adoration for the woman, which is evident from the act of kissing the woman’s stomach. Also, the woman seems to be inclining away from the middle line between the two, while the man is bended – so that he can reach the woman who is apparently drawing away from him. This can be used to point out the fact that the idea of a man pursuing a man is expressed (Watt, 1957; West, 1996).

In comparison to the reality already known, Rodin changes the outlook and the view of artwork creation, as he does not go by the established principals of artwork creation, as he does not contend to the values of empiricists and the views of romanticism. From Rodin’s example, artwork can be created from the passions and the natural inclinations flowing inside the personality of artists.

An example here is the inspiration he draws from the love and the adoration of the female body and its beauty. Further, he draws inspiration from the artworks of a close friend, which clearly shows that ideas towards artwork creation can be drawn from a variety of sources (Watt, 1957).

Rodin’s artwork is a perfect example of a naturalistic piece of art, also referred as representational artworks – as the figures contained in the artwork are fully representative of the natural forms in the natural world. In the case of Rodin’s sculpture, these natural world forms include the male and the female body, as well as a rock surface, which is similar to the base the two body figures are set on.

The piece is also a realistic artwork, as the artist held the goal of portraying the goal to represent the natural forms in a highly representational manner. These traits are achieved from the detailed creation of the natural romance that thrives between the female and the male body. Some of the hidden symbols and significance include the expression of feelings between a man and a woman, the power of a woman, as well as the dependence of a man on the woman (Baron & Engel, 2010).

Art in its historical style

The sculpture belongs to the realism historical style of art. This is the case, as the work represents the figures as they exist, from a third-person objective realistic view point and in accordance to empirical rules of reality. The evidence to this is that the figures are arranged to depict a realistic, objective view of a romantic moment for a man and a woman, where the man is, apparently, submissive to the woman. This work relates to other works like Sakountala by Camille Claudel.

Others include Catalogue, the Danald, the Kiss, Fugit Amor, Eternal Spring, Paolo and Francesca, all created by Rodin. The eternal idol as an artwork is greatly related to the other works by Rodin, as mentioned above, as they were all created on the basis of the inspiration from the couple and the beauty of the human body, in continued expression of sensuality, tenderness and passion. The work is part of the established theme of the couple, which is based on the realist historical style and type of art. The innovative features of the tradition include common place themes for art, the faithful representation of reality, and pointing out the psychological and social problems of everyday life (Morris, 2003).

Personal assessment of the work

The creative model of Rodin has greatly shaped the creation of artworks, as it proved that art creation should not be limited to established lines of art creation as well as – that artwork meaning should not be restricted to a limited number of meanings. The research of the work, further changed my opinion about the work – as it was uncovered to be more than a self-centered creation of personal inclination, to a shift in sources of inspiration and sense of creativity.


Baron, C., & Engel, M. (2010). Realism/Anti-Realism in 20th-Century Literature. NL: Rodopi.

La Réunion Des Musées Nationaux. (2012). The Eternal Idol, 1889 – Rodin.

Morris, P. (2003). Realism. London: Routledge.

Watt, I. (1957). The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding. Berkeley: University of California Press.

West, S. (1996). The Bullfinch Guide to Art. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

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