A Portrait of a Thinker

With graduation season almost upon us, it's a time to contemplate some artwork that brings to mind the philosopher and the scholar in us all. Today we go by way of a famous sculpture by Rodin called the Thinker, and talk about its connection to the unique pictures-to-painting work of Nobilified.

The Thinker was created by its sculptor in the heroic style of the Renaissance works of Michelangelo, and with good reason. It was originally intended by its creator, Auguste Rodin, to be a tribute to a man who loomed as large in the literary tradition of the Renaissance as Michelangelo did in the tradition of its painters and sculptors. That man was one of the humanity's quintessential thinkers: Dante Alighieri.

Dante is of course known for the long narrative poem called The Divine Comedy. It may sound funny to call a work about weighty themes of morality and redemption a "comedy," but his reason for choosing the word was sound: in plays of the day, a "tragedy" was something that started well and ended badly, and a comedy took the opposite course, starting in trial and tribulation and ending in happiness.

Alighieri's La Commedia was indeed a "comedy" in this sense: about the path to happiness and righteousness, it begins with the journey through the nine circles of Hell in its most famous section, Inferno, and ends with purification, a pilgrimage through purgatory where souls are cleansed of the wounds of sin, and an ascent to heaven. Dante's was a strictly Renaissance Humanist take on this kind of journey, guided by a combination of Classical philosophers and poets like Ovid, Cicero, Avicenna, Galen, Plato and Aristotle. It was a guide to the redeeming power of knowledge joined with a moral inner life and, of course, moral action.

Rodin's Thinker is a solid tribute to this legacy, which still has so much to teach today's graduates. It was far from the first work to pay tribute to the mind with Renaissance heroism of the body: it has visible sources of inspiration in 18th-century French painting, in particular a work of the prolific painter Anne-Louis Girodet called "Old Man in a Grotto." Right down to the posture, it's a piece that recalls the more famous sculpture that would follow it.

This is just one of many tributes to the Scholar spirit in the portrait galleries of Nobilified, and this graduation season your friends and family can have a commemoration and reminder of the illustrious history of the intellect in your own home... with your face in the frame. It's easy to order one of our customized paintings. Just check out our gallery, choose a portrait, send us a picture of yourself and one of our professional painters will turn your picture into a custom oil painting that you can treasure for years to come.