Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) spent roughly 37 years creating ‘The Gates of Hell’, a pair of enormous doors designed for a Paris museum that was never built. The nearly 20 foot (6 m) tall work depicts various scenes and characters from the ‘Inferno’ portion of Dante Alighieri's ‘The Divine Comedy’. The figure perched above the gates, deep in thought, is believed by some to represent Dante, an Italian poet, writer and philosopher (c.1265-1371) himself.

Originally titled ‘The Poet’, the figure on the gate eventually inspired Rodin to create a larger version, the 6-foot (2 m) tall bronze statue we now know as ‘The Thinker’. Rodin made the first small plaster version around 1881. A public subscription financed a bronze casting, and the first full-scale model was cast in 1904. It was presented to the Salon des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and was an immediate success.

It was also a much-needed financial boost for Rodin, whose income had been in a slump for much of the 1890s. Rodin began to exhibit the figure, sometimes with the title ‘Poet’, other times as ‘Poet/Thinker”. By 1896, however, it had become simply ‘The Thinker’.

Although exact numbers are hard to come by, it’s believed that Rodin cast about 10 versions of ‘The Thinker’ during his lifetime. When he passed away, the rights to cast the statue passed on to the French government, which went on to create at least 10 more versions.

The original monumental bronze which was cast in 1904 is now on display at the Musée Rodin, in Paris.

More Info: