Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Paris :: Part 7 : I Am Beautiful (Je suis belle)

Auguste Rodin made numerous studies of figures and re-used his models in various groupings. One chance combination in plaster of the crouching female and the reaching male figures (both of which were studies for the "The Gates of Hell") became the basis for famous bronze casts. One of the sculptures sits in a glass case by the window at the Rodin Museum in Paris. It's titled "I am beautiful", after Baudelaire's poem:
"I am beautiful, oh mortals, like a marble dream,  
And my breast on which each sacrifices himself in turn, 
Was made to inspire poets with a love  
As eternal and silent as matter.'
The meaning of this sculpture is unclear.  It's ambiguity and intensity is what made me fall in love with it. It is a union of two opposites: female and male, fetal and erect, closed and open, empathetic and violent, static and moving. It's as difficult and as beautiful as the tension between two beings, the culmination of emotional extremes in an interpersonal relationship. Instinctively, I know that I have lived through *that* when I look at the figures. I understand it. But...cannot put it into words. Such is the power of Rodin's sculptures: they are a mirror of all things human yet invisible.