MHC Seminar 1, Professor Casey Henry

Category: Rodin (Page 1 of 2)

Rodin and Michaelangelo

It was interesting to see  Michelangelo’s work in real life. He is very good at drawing. Sometimes his sketches appeared to have a different style to them (when compared to each other). This was strange to see. I did not know that Michaelangelo copied his one painting of devils holding a man up in the sky from another man’s work. That was interesting. I thought the color from the painted version added a lot but I also felt that the detail and light was actually better on the original drawing. I did not know that Rodin made so many smaller copies of sculptures he already made once before.

Rodin and Michelangelo both portray the human form in great detail, but the contrast is in how this form is depicted. Michelangelo’s figures are graceful, showing the best side of humanity – hopeful images of God and the beauty of the human figure in the nude form. Michelangelo uses bright colors and light to bring out the positivity of life. Rodin’s work is literally darker, as he often used bronze, in contrast to Michelangelo’s preference for marble. His bronze figures, particularly those recreated from his sculpture “The Gates of Hell,” are often twisted awkwardly, folding into themselves, hiding their bodies. Rodin’s work emphasizes biblical suffering, where Michelangelo focuses more on angels and heroes.

Rodin and Michelangelo Met Museum

The Weeping Burgher

By looking over both the artworks of Rodin and Michelangelo, subtle differences can be seen through careful observation. As I looked over the sculptures of Rodin, I noticed that his works of art focused on some state of the human body in connection with emotions. Rodin is able to portray emotion in his sculptures by giving states of being a recognizable pose. Take for example “The Weeping Burgher,” in which Rodin decided to portray a character in grief. The way Rodin accentuated the feeling of grief in this particular piece is by having the figure cover its face in distress and arched slightly forward as if to show that the sadness it feels is too much to bear. Another example of how Rodin plays with emotional representation through his work can be seen in “The Thinker,” which shows a male figure in a position that suggests he is in deep through about an issue. In this case, Roding has the figure in a sitting position with his body leaned forward and his head resting on his hand made into a fist. The thinker is a popular sculpture of Rodin and it helps to show the way in which he portrays emotion through his work.

The Thinker


One feature I noticed in Michelangelo’s work that is different from Rodin is his practice of exaggerating the physical features of the human body. Michelangelo add a touch of masculinity in his work by accentuating the muscular tone of the subjects he focuses on. In the unfinished sketch of “Madonna and Child,” Michelangelo portrayed the faces of both Madonna and the baby with light physical features. Their skin is smooth and free of harsh distinguishable lines. The bodies of these subjects, nevertheless, add significant contrast to the sketch. Madonna and even the child are showcased with heavy muscular tones that are not usually seen in other sketches. The muscular focus of this sketch perhaps is meant to develop the idea that the women and the child, despite the fragility associated with their faces, are strong and fierce characters.


Madonna and Child

Michaelangelo to Rodin: Decay of Art

The transition of the five hundred some odd years between Michaelangelo and Rodin is so starkly symbolic of a “decay” in artistic values and ideals throughout history. When we look at Renaissance sculptures, we see a lot of very clean cut pieces of art that seem almost too perfect. The stone is smooth and cut completely, any traces of its original form almost completely lost to the polishedness of the figures. The godly themes of Michaelangelo’s work are almost translated in how perfectly and cleanly his pieces are cut. Even in the drafting process, his forms clearly have had a lot of work put into them, demonstrating meticulous attention to the most minute of details.

Meanwhile, Rodin’s pieces almost resemble what one would imagine Michaelangelo’s pieces looking like a couple thousand years down the road. The forms that were once stark and ethereal are now suddenly gross and molten-looking, as though one had poured battery acid onto the stones upon their completion. He is also very conscious of his leaving of the original form of the stone, the artist making sure that the clandestine form of his medium still gets some attention and is not neglected by the viewer. You’re almost forced to recognize that this was once a piece of stone, and that the forms we recognize as “perfect” and “godly” root themselves in imperfection. Rodin cared less about sanctity and more about humanity.


In this piece by Rodin, the passion and romance of The Kiss is undeniable, the figures are so involved with each other that their faces can barely be seen. The total embraces with which they hold each other make the tragedy of their love even greater and Rodin draws on themes which all audiences can appreciate in a way which is both romantic and sensual. Although both figures are nude, Rodin’s skill as an artist made sure that the way the figures were rendered was in a classical way and one which was not overtly sexual.

As with many of Rodin’s sculptures The Kiss is designed to be viewed from every angle and Rodin wanted the piece to be believable and real. The artist certainly creates this and by making a sculpture which is visually stimulating from 360 degrees the dedication and skill of Rodin is successfully demonstrated. The contrast between the smooth skin of the lovers and the rough marble of the rock they are sitting on adds further sensual elements to this piece.

This is the last marble sculpture upon which Michelangelo worked during the last weeks of his life in 1564. This sculpture is fascinating for its minimalism, even suggesting the possibility that Michelangelo purposely left it “unfinished,” thereby making it, in some art historian’s view, the earliest piece of “modern art.” The Pieta Rondanini was ignored for centuries, but this is the kind of quality you get in the work of old artists who are skillfully great. They can simplify; they can leave out; in the Rondanini Pieta there’s a whole of Michelangelo’s 89 years’ life somewhere.

Mary stands elevated on a stone platform and bends over the full length corpse of Christ, supporting it with difficulty, from behind. Mary is holding up the slender Christ with her outstretched arms as if offering his spirit, but with time and through nearly three different stages, Christ sank down, now emerging from Mary’s breast and exaggerated in his slender form. Finally, Michelangelo drew the heads of the two figures closer and closer together, dissolving the barrier between mother and son.The two figures have virtually melted into one, with a rigidity that only heightens its emotional appeal that has found admirers in our modern times.

In this piece titled Ajitto by Robert Mapplethorpe, it does not picture two bodies, but it emphasizes on the one in great detail. With a simple glance, the viewer can easily spot every form of muscle definition present in this man and, even without his face on display, his apparent internal turmoil is evident. Sitting on such a stool in the form he is presented in exhibits a level of pain and discomfort, but the feeling of comfort in coiling into himself may be strong enough to overpower the physical torture.


Rodin and Michelangelo

Both Rodin and Michelangelo took interest in the human body.

Rodin put a lot of emphasis on the the expression and feeling that the sculptures portrayed  particularly in the nude which he is quoted to say, “The form and the attitude of a human being reveals the emotions of its soul. The body always expresses the spirit whose envelope it is. And for [he] who can see, the nude offers the richest meaning.” He also use the medium to his advantage to create or recreate a scene to a story or evoke strong feelings.

The Thinker posed to evoke deep thought and contemplation and depending on the angle you look at the statue, like in the picture, you can even say that the Thinker has come to an epiphany or is in the process if such. The statue isn’t in a relaxed posture but in a more rigid, dynamic pose that illicits action.


Fallen Caryatid Carrying an Urn shows the scrunched up body weighed down by the Urn which also shows how much a person could be crushed by the burdens they carry.

Michelangelo on the other hand focused more on the idealized human body and image

The sculptor of the Young Archer depicts a child whose body is fit and muscular, not a body you would imagine on a child, however it would fit the occupation of an archer. The statue is shown in a free and open expression that does not shy away from showing off his body.

The statue of David is the image of an idealized man.  The limbs, hips are counterbalanced to depict a naturalistic and humane stance to the subject. The posture is known as Contropposto which was originally observed in the sculpture, The Spear Bearer by Polykleitos also known as the Canon or the ideal model that others should study and copy. The subject David is shown to have an athletic build with intricate details to anatomy.

Rodin, Michaelangelo, and Mapplethorpe

Rodin and Michelangelo were both fantastic sculptors who had different styles.

Rodin’s sculptures are all very focussed on the human body. The sculptures often feature very prominent and detailed muscles. He also creates sculptures of the human body contorting in magnificent positions.  For example, one of the sculptures featured in the Rodin exhibit was an extremely detailed hand. In this sculpture Rodin focusses on the form of the hand and how all of its muscles work to form an interesting position.  Another example of Rodin’s focus on shapes formed by the body is “Fallen Caryatid Carrying an Urn”. While this sculpture does not focus on each muscle like the hand does, it does show how the human body can move to form intricate and interesting shapes.    Another prime example of Rodin’s love of the human form is in his sculpture of the entire body of a man. The sculptures show his large shoulder, abdominal, thigh and arm muscles. 


Mapplethorpe’s photographs of the male body are similar to Rodin’s sculptures. Like Rodin, he highlights every detail of the muscles and the shapes they can take, often not even including the models’ faces. Such is the case in this photo,  . Mapplethorpe does not include his subject’s face, but rather shows every line and detail formed by the model flexing his muscles. Like the Rodin, there is an emphasis on the shoulder, abdominal, and thigh muscles.

Contrastingly, Michelangelo’s sculptures focussed more on the details of the human face and hair. For example, in his sculpture of a young angel, Michelangelo puts the most detail into the angel’s curly hair.  He also puts so much work into making the angel’s face conventionally beautiful. In some of his works not displayed at the Met, Michelangelo synthesizes his attention to the faces and an attention to bodies, just like in Michelangelo’s David, displayed at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. In this sculpture, Michelangelo gives immense attention to the beauty of the face and hair, but also includes a lot of details in the muscles. Additionally, the statue is massive (17 ft tall) and completely detailed and beautiful throughout.


After looking at both Rodin’s and Michelangelo’s sculptures, I noticed that many times Rodin focused on depicting a specific idea but not the details of the sculpture. For example, in “The Thinker” (, Rodin captures well the pose and the atmosphere of a thinker, but he does not focus on the intricacies of the face, hair etc.

In contrast, it seemed to me that Michelangelo focused more on his actual sculpture and not the idea he is trying to present. He took great care to depict every detail of the human; such as the curls of the hair, the folds of the skin etc. His statues almost seem lifelike like the statue of the sleeping Eros…h/images/hb/hb_43.11.4.jpg).  In conclusion, initially when I saw both artists’ work I thought they were essentially the same, but  when I studied them more carefully, these differences became apparent to me.

Rodin and Michelangelo’s Adam

As we walked the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it became very clear to me that I knew nothing about art. If I’m being completely honest, at first glance I couldn’t tell the difference between the Rodin and Michelangelo sculptures beyond the room they were in and that they were both beautiful. However, when I looked closely enough, I saw that it was these subtle differences that made them so unique. Specifically, with both artist’s portrayal of Adam, it is apparent to see Michelangelo’s influence in Rodin’s art as both depictions share similar physical characteristics. These include the striking male physique that was created by Michelangelo and carried on by Rodin as well as the curly hair and similar bone structure in the face. Although Michelangelo’s fresco is painted, and Rodin’s Adam is a statue made of marble, even someone as unskilled as me can note these similarities.  The most striking similarity is both Adam’s hands. Each hand is carefully crafted in the same pointing position. Michelangelo’s is toward God, while Rodin’s is to the ground. This is significant because it made me look more closely at the expressions on each of the Adams. Michelangelo’s Adam is curious and inquisitive, reaching toward God. On the other hand, Rodin’s Adam is anguished and appears to be in pain. Perhaps his reaching to the ground is after God punished him and kicked him out of Eden. This would explain Rodin’s portrayal of Adam’s misery in contrast with Michelangelo’s curiosity for life and God.

Rodin, Michelangelo, and Mapplethorpe

Both Rodin and Michelangelo’s sculptures have characteristics that make them similar, yet extremely unique. What was unique about Rodin’s sculptures was the thematic element to his work. For example, he has one collection of sculptures titled, The Gates of Hell. These sculptures had more of a narrative theme to it, with the body language and facial cues of the sculptures capturing the Hell Rodin was trying to communicate. There was also a sculpture telling the mythological story of Eurydice and Orpheus, highlighting the narrative quality present in some of Rodin’s sculptures. In other sculptures, however, Rodin is less narrative and focuses on the human form. For instance, one of his sculptures was simply a very detailed human hand. This focus on human form is similar to Michelangelo’s sculptures, that often lacked a narrative quality and let the detail and human form or head bust speak for itself. Similarly to Michelangelo and Rodin’s sculptures, Mapplethorpe’s nude photography greatly focuses on the detail of the human form rather than narration. Mapplethorpe’s photography almost seems like a sculpture, especially in his photographs of nude men, as the lighting and camera work shows a great attention to the muscular detail of the human form seen in many traditional sculptures. The picture below is a great example of how Mapplethorpe’s work focuses on the human form as leaves out the head and only focuses on the body of the man posing for the photo, similar to many sculptures that omit the face to focus on the body.

« Older posts