The Kiss and A Song of Despair
There is a moment in time when two lovers, oblivious to the world around them, are about to lose themselves to the irresistable compulsion of erotic love.
This moment is captured exquisitely by Rodin in The Kiss . Rodin's ambition was to "render inner feelings through muscular movement" and if it's possible in all but the literal sense to breathe life into marble, then Rodin has done so, for The Kiss is something more than an accomplished craftsman's mastery over cold stone...it's an exploration of the emotional depths of flesh and blood people. His fluid, powerful bodies exude an energy that pulses with life.
Originally designed as a frieze for the Gates of Hell[an entrance to a museum] Rodin based his lovers on a story from Dante's Divine Comedy . However these are not the stiff and static classical figures of mythical heroes; they're real in a very human sense. Rodin has managed to recreate a living scene and invest it with emotion so that the viewer can almost feel the sense of 'tension before a fall' about the surrendering couple.
There is no view from which we can see the faces of the figures clearly, yet this scarcely matters, as, enmeshed and entwined, the lovers are becoming one and it's the act of passion, rather than the individuals, which is so evocative a vision. In the male figure, the toes are curled and tensed and his hand touches the girls hip lightly in anticipation,not quite pressing on his lovers body.The female figure half reclines in abandonement and her body relaxes in expectation The viewer senses that in the next few moments the lovers will be immersed in the full-blown ecstasty of the embrace.
Rodins perceptive nuances elicit a more emotive response than a less subtle erotic piece might have achieved.Had the lovers been shown in full, tight embrace we would have lost something of the tension and sensitivity which help make the work so effective.
Like Michelangelo's David , The Mona Lisa and Munch's Scream , The Kiss has become a victim of its own fame and has in part mutated into a hackneyed cultural icon, overexposed and exploited by the forces of kitsch to appear on tea towels, tissue boxes and mugs. Yet perhaps this is just an indicator of how deeply such works resonate in the human psyche.
Neruda Says it Better
My response to the Kiss is an emotional one and it's quite hard, for this writer at least, to convey an emotional response in words. Of course if I had been born a highly talented Chilean poet, I would have written this!:
You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!
It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.
Pilot's dread, fury of blind driver,
Turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!
From A Song of Despair, by Pablo Neruda
This excerpt from Neruda's poem seems to match so well the mood of The Kiss and like the sculpture, carries a sense of abandonment to the 'spell'.. .an intoxication. The connection was not discovered by me as I once received a virtual postcard with sculpture and poem together. I was so affected by the words and image I fell madly in love with the sender! Mind you, I was already three-quarters there, it just tipped me over the edge.
Anyone who has been passionately in love will have felt what it's like to be immersed in the well of desire where "everything sinks". Both The Kiss and Song of Despair use the same sensual, melancholic language to conjure this experience, one through form, the other with words.
As to the love affair? Well I'm over it now....after intoxication comes the inevitable hangover.
For more kissing check out http://hubpages.com/hub/kiss-and-quotes
- Love, Love, Love
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