Rodin's Adam

The biblical first man was a particularly compelling subject for one of the twentieth century’s most prominent sculptors

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Interior view of the Rodin gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wing D, 1st Floor, Room 13 (1912) by Met MuseumThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

This dark sculpture is a powerful example of Rodin’s fascination with the theme of Creation. Biblically, Adam and Eve were the first man and women created by God. Adam’s pose suggests the figure is unfolding, as if transitioning from nothingness into existence.

Adam (1880/1910) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rodin’s presentation of Adam suggests the figure is in the process of coming to life. Notice how the body is fully formed, but Adam’s eyes are not yet open.

Adam (1880/1910) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rodin juxtaposes a variety of elements to emphasize that the figure is in the process of transformation. The arm that’s drawn across the body is limp, while the one that hangs at his side is strong. Its muscles are bunched as Adam points down to the earth from which he was made.

Adam (1880/1910) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

If this arm looks familiar, it’s because this pointing gesture is a direct visual quotation of another very famous work of art: Michelangelo’s fresco of Adam in Sistine Chapel, gesturing as he receives life from the figure of God.

Adam Adam (modeled 1880 or 1881, cast 1910) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rodin intended Adam and a sculpture of Eve to flank the monumental bronze doorway, The Gates of Hell. There, the biblical progenitors of humanity would have stood as perpetual witnesses to the consequences of their sin—bodily death and the damnation of souls.

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