This sculpture is my favorite work of art by Auguste Rodin. Despite the dark inspiration behind the piece, I find it strikingly beautiful.
The Three Shades are a representation of the tortured souls of the damned, or shades, who stand at the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. The three identical figures point to an inscription that reads “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
Originally created for Rodin’s monumental work, “The Gates of Hell,” several versions of the Three Shades were created, both in plaster and in bronze. While the plaster versions of the work are quite beautiful, I think the dark patina of the bronze is more appropriate to the darkness of the subject. This one is located in the Rodin Garden at the North Carolina Art Museum.