Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Midnight Garden

Bronze shoulders flecked with light. The hotel ablaze with golden, square-paned windows. At midnight, the Musee Rodin was a land of waterless fountains, shadows feigning humans and darkness as crisp as clipped hedges. The sculptures looked as if they would be tempted to move if only the clock struck right.

Our feet ached from the seemingly endless night of museums, but when we walked into Rodin’s midnight garden, I felt suddenly awakened as if under a spell. This hotel, where Rodin worked in towards the end of his life, now had creaking bones and peeling paint but the sculptures inside writhed with life. There was the bronze of a man holding his hair back, so lifelike that envious artists took Rodin to court, accusing him of using a cast. There were the multiple renditions of Balzac and his great belly, its importance only rivaled by his ego. The many contorted female bodies, one flashing her innermost part. The beautiful cascade of marble hair from the sleeping woman was one I could relate to.

The true masterpieces were outside, framed by the impeccable garden and covered in artificial light. The Gates of Hell seemed far more sinister at this hour. From afar the twisting, tortured bodies looked almost like dead leaves, ruled over by the Three Shades and their joined fists. Their sinewy muscles looked tenser, more desperately strained as if they would burst into agonized movement any moment. On the other side of the garden, the Thinker was pondering more wisely as ever. The green metallic skin seemed to course with all his thoughts. We walked down the path behind the hotel where the dark trees were barely distinguishable from the dirt path. I imagined how brightly green the grass would be and how the fountains would laugh under the sun. Through a lit patch of leaves, we could see a golden dome of a monumental building, rebelling against all the surrounding black.

It had rained that day and unseen mud clung to my boots. We didn’t know it then but it would rain everyday in Paris. We laid down a museum map on a wet bench and I found his shoulder to rest on, warmer than weathered bronze.