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The Kiss

The relevancy "The Kiss" has with Starlight Tower's website is twofold: firstly, to display additional pieces of Rodin's work having established our connection to him via our "Thinker" and its similarities to his and secondly, to suggest that upon completion of Starlight Tower's renovation it may be the appropriate time to consider adorning its grounds with statues (without specifically endorsing this particular one) and propose as ideal placement location in the Greek and Roman models the area around the swimming pool overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Kiss" is a sculpture by the famous French artist Auguste Rodin 1840 – 1917 created for his monumental masterwork the "Gates of Hell". The theme of the statue is based on the doomed love story of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta in Dante Alighieri's (born Durante Degli Alighieri in Florence Italy 1265 - 1321) "Hell", (Canto V, circle 2) of his "Divine Comedy" that is the theme for the "Gates of Hell".

The Kiss by Auguste Rodin
The Kiss

You should pay close attention at the detail on the man's right foot and the tightening of the toes indicating the force of the passion that obsesses him but also the awkwardness of his hand where the arm muscles clearly point out the visible power underneath but the thump standing up in indecision and the fingers just laying on the woman's thigh which show uncertainty as to if he should let himself submit to his passion or retreat because after all that's his brother's wife. Details like this in Rodin's creation exposing the passion that inflames the lovers and yet done so elegantly by his mastery of form, light and shadow has made the Kiss this extraordinary symbol of sensuality.

Rodin had decided that Francesca's love for Paolo should illustrate their earthly passion which qualified them to be part of his "Gates of Hell" composition (where he placed them on a dominant position on the left leaf of the door to create a counter-weight to "Ugolino and his Sons" on the right side) since according to Dante it was this earthly love that made them residents at the Second Circle of "Hell".

However later on he changed his mind because the statue looked too serene in comparison to the rest of the figures that were all gloomy so he removed it from the Gates of Hell and replaced it with two other representations of the same couple: one is the "Fugit Amor" now at the left leaf showing Paolo and Francesca falling down together while Paolo is desperately holding on to his lover and then the other one known as "Francesca and Paolo" placed them directly below "Ugolino and his sons showing Francesca slipping down the rocks but on different  position while again Paolo is trying to hold her.

Then he created a version of the statue in plaster and subsequently was commissioned by the Directorate of Fine Arts to make a larger version in marble which he did (see also picture below).

The Kiss by Auguste Rodin
Rodin posing next to his creation "The Kiss"

Rodin has been celebrated for decades as one of the most renowned realist sculptors. His goal, as he put it, was "to render inner feelings through muscular movement". He achieved this by utilizing his deep knowledge of anatomy and movement paying special attention to body surfaces. He is quoted to say: "The sculptor must learn to reproduce the surface, which means all that vibrates on the surface, soul, love, passion, life. Sculpture is thus the art of hollows and mounds, not of smoothness, or even polished planes".

Brief history of Francesca da Rimini

Francesca da Rimini, (daughter of Guido Vecchio da Polenta of Ravenna) in 1275 was married for political reasons to Giovanni Malatesta, son and heir of the Lord of Rimini who was physically deformed. Unfortunately she fell in love with his handsome young brother Paolo who was Captain of the People in Florence. Then one day as Paolo and Francesca were sitting side by side reading a book about Lancelot's love to Guinevere there eyes met and been influenced from the book's romantic atmosphere, they exchange a kiss which sorry to say takes place at the wrong time and place because her husband walked in at that exact moment. And while he draws his sword attacking Paolo to penetrate his heart with his blade, Francesca jumps in front of Paolo to protect him so the blade goes through both oh them killing them instantaneously.
The unlucky lovers were buried together on the same tomb. This happened in 1285, when Dante, was 17 years old at his hometown Florence and obviously was a big event that influenced his young mind so when in later years he wrote the Divine Comedy although he was very sympathetic to the ill-fated couple according to the morals of his era he felt obligated to place them in Hell but at least it was on the Second Circle of the Upper Hell whereas he placed the husband who was a murderer on the Lower Hell at the Seventh Circle!
Is also interesting to know that during the last years of his life which Dante spend in exile, he lived at the court of Guido Lord of Ravenna who was Francesca's nephew. Isn't it a small world!

Reading Dante's Inferno in Italian at no point he refers that the love affair of Francesca and Paolo was ever consummated which raises the question of why did Rodin had chosen to depict them naked? Was it an artistic decision or something else?
Well apparently it was definitely something else. It was the translation of Dante's work that Rodin had read done by the linguist Rivarol who did not gave a straight translation but instead adapted some of the poem's details and idioms and had placed a description of the book, sliding from Paolo's hand which is a detail not mentioned in Dante's original text and yet very clearly depicted by Rodin! It was also Rivarol who had made a definite judgment of the adultery condemned by Dante, by closing the scene with a sentence completely of his own!
So on one hand we should thank Rodin for reading Rivanol's altered translation and producing this masterpiece but on the other hand we should feel very sorry for these two unlucky people who lost their lives, were condemned to eternal Hell and now parade in their nakedness for all of us to see and all this for just one kiss! That's a very big price to pay!

Thanks to Dante's epic poem, Francesca and Paolo's doomed tragic love has been source of inspiration to numerous artists of all media worldwide and thought it would be fitting to insert here an illustration of their torment as their naked bodies are punished eternally by the dreadful winds in Hell as portrayed by Gustave Doré.

The souls of Paolo and Francesca by Gustane Dore
"The souls of Paolo and Francesca" by French artist Gustave Doré 1832 - 1883
as depicted in his illustration of Dante's Infero.

Molon Lave Semper Fidelis
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