Originally named The Poet, the piece was part of a committee of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris to create a monumental portal based on the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. Each of the statues in the piece represented one of the main characters of the epic poem. The Thinker was originally trying picture Dante in front of the Gates of Hell, pondering his great poem. The sculpture is nude as Rodin wanted a heroic figure like Michelangelo to represent thought as poetry.
Rodin made his first version around 1880. The first statue (The Thinker) on a larger scale was completed in 1902, but was not presented to the public until 1904. Became the property of Paris thanks to a contribution organized by Rodin admirers and was placed in front of the Pantheon in 1906. In 1922, however, was taken to the Hotel Biron, transformed into the Rodin Museum. More than twenty copies of the sculpture are in museums around the world. Some of these copies are enlarged versions of the original work as well as sculptures of different proportions.
The Ricardo Brennand Institute in Recife, Pernambuco, has authorized a replica of the work exposed in their gardens.