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Exhibit Catalog to the Morris County Historical Society's "Out of the Closet" Exhibition

La Nuit

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Artist unknown
La Nuit (The Night)
Circa 19th century
Made in France
Bronze sculpture
11 in. (with base)
 
Found in collection.
 
 
 

This sculpture is a small-scale copy of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker. But what makes this sculpture so unusual is the plaque on the back of its base. One would expect to see The Thinker or The Poet (Rodin's original name for his famous piece), but this small sculpture's plaque reads La Nuit (or The Night). Where does this title come from and how does it relate to the original The Thinker?
 
The original The Thinker was commissioned by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris to represent Dante himself looking down upon "The Gates of Hell" (a door with scenes from Dante's Divine Comedy) in sober meditation. But the iconography of a person resting his/her chin on his/her hand while in the middle of great thought or psychological torment is not a new one. Michelangelo's allegorical sculpture Night (part of a sculptural pair - Night and Day - for the Tomb of Giuliano de' Medici). is perhaps the inspiration for The Thinker. Night, personified as a reclining woman, rests her forehead upon her hand in a pensive manner. She may be resisting the inevitable sleep that is about to come, or she, as Night, may be reflecting on the day that has come to a close.
 
Perhaps this bronze statuette, with its unmistakable pose and unexpected plaque, is looking back to two masters at once.