I recently revisited Philadelphia’s excellent Rodin museum–well worth a trip, for those in the area. Simply aim your GPS at Art Museum Drive, find street parking or pay the (admittedly steep) $12 fee for museum parking, and then take a short, hopefully sunny, walk from the Art Museum steps (still patrolled by opportunistic photographers clutching Rocky tee shirts) to the beautiful jewel of French architecture that is the museum and its gardens.
If you don’t wish to stump up the $8 “voluntary” contribution to enter the galleries of the museum proper, the exterior can still give you a taste of this brilliant sculptor’s work–(Keba Evans: “He’s not bad, is he?”)–including “The Thinker,” (pictured left) and of course, “The Gates of Hell.”
“The Gates of Hell” (detail pictured right) is possibly Rodin’s most famous work, and is of course a tribute to Dante’s Inferno. I’m guessing, because the fountain from the Rodin Museum’s gardens appears on the cover of my 2006 chapbook, Swimming, that viewing this intense frieze of tortured souls for the first time back then is one of the reasons I chose to focus on Dante’s Inferno for my final MFA lecture, delivered in 2008 and later published by the late Paul Stevens in The Chimaera.
I’ll be forty-five in July, which puts me “nel mezzo del cammin di [mia] vita” if not beyond, and so I guess Dante is on my mind for several reasons, including for his merciless definitions of sin and for his uncompromising dedication to the perfect rhyme terza rima he invented.
Dante…Rodin…Philadelphia…I love all these things, and consider myself blessed, even if I was not remotely tempted to buy a photograph of myself wearing a Rocky tee shirt and running the art museum steps.