In 1880, the still relatively unknown artist Auguste Rodin received the prestigious commission to create two monumental doors for the proposed Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. He derived the theme from Inferno (Hell) from the Divina Commedia, in which Dante recounts his journey from hell, through purgatory to paradise.
For the ‘gates of hell’, Rodin designed an overcrowded relief with over 180 bodies in the most distraught poses. The museum, however, was never built and he decided to produce a number of figures from his relief as independent sculptures, including this Squatting woman. The unnatural and cramped posture and the face of the woman express powerful feelings of pain, fear and despair.
With his study of the human figure, Rodin distanced himself from academic sculpture, which focused primarily on religious, mythological or historical subjects. In his sculptures he expresses human motivations, such as emotion, passion and eroticism. Furthermore, for him the skin of the human body and the muscles are important means of expression, as are the effects of light and shadow.