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It was in 1894 that Auguste Rodin conceived of the idea of Youth Triumphant, drawing on inspiration from Jean Dampt's similar sculpture, The Kiss of the Grandmother. Youth Triumphant was designed to be part of Rodin's immense The Gates of Hell, which, in turn, was drawn from Dante's The Inferno.
The Gates of Hell were intended to be the dramatic entry into a museum which was, in the end, never built. Rodin worked on the piece for thirty-seven years, from its commencement until his death. Other notable pieces within the work were also successfully upscaled and produced as works in their own rights, pieces such as the famous The Thinker and The Kiss (later removed from inclusion in The Gates as being too positive). Youth Triumphant is made from bronze with an attractive green and brown patina, not the shiny black that it sometimes appears in images. The sculpture shows nude or semi-nude two figures clasped in a passionate embrace.
At first glance, the rendering appears to be a more or less typically patriarchal rendering: strong masculine figure on top with weaker feminine figure beneath. However, the domination of the older figure – being literally on the top, is subverted by the observation that one of her hands is behind her back which gives the effect of a courtly bow, while the other is supporting, not only her own weight, but that of the younger figure too. This highlights the second way the sculpture defamiliarizes: both figures are female. And, the younger figure, apparently submissive and vulnerable figure is clearly participating in the kiss willingly, as evidenced by her hands clasped tightly – almost fervently – around the older figure's neck.
She is almost hanging her whole weight off the older figure, pressing herself upwards as urgently as she can, while the older figure seems almost reluctant, drawn in despite her own misgivings. As with all good art, the more one examines the sculpture, the more detail and understanding there is to be gleaned from the work. As Rodin's fame grew in later years, Youth Triumphant (along with many other pieces, including several others from The Gates of Hell) was reproduced in several different sizes, and one of these is currently on display in the Muse Soumaya, in Mexico City.