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Trois Ombres

Henry J. Simonds, Pittsburgh, PA
March 17, 2010
Ed. of 5 — 22½” x 30”x 1”
Piezo print on archival polymer paper on aluminum
Signed, titled, dated, and numbered on back of mount


The Three Shades (Les Trois Ombres) (c. 1880-1904) is one of the most recognizable Rodin works, as it crowns the lintel of The Gates of Hell and, along with The Thinker, visually anchors the piece. The life-size grouping seen here in the gardens of Hotêl Biron consists of three casts of the same withered figure juxtaposed at slightly different angles.  This figure is a variation of Adam, who appears elsewhere in the doors.  As a triptych, the men represent the lost souls, or “shades”, that confront Dante on his journey through the nine circles of hell.  In The Gates, the Shades appear to point forebodingly to The Thinker — a reflective Dante considering the manifestation of his great poem — possibly warning of the horrors that await him. Although there are varying interpretations of the symbolism of the work, some experts contend that the figures are the personification of the first three lines of the inscription above the threshold to the underworld: Per me si va nella città dolente. Per me si va nell' eterno dolore. Per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Through me you enter the woeful city...

through me you enter eternal grief...

through me you enter among the lost. 
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