Created in 1880 in its original size, approximately 70 cm, to adorn the 'tympanum' of The Gate of Hell, The Thinker was then titled The Poet: he represented Dante, the author of The Divine Comedy that had inspired The Door, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell meditating on his work. The Thinker was initially both a tortured being, almost a damned, and a free-spirited man, determined to transcend his suffering through poetry. For his pose, this figure owes much to Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux's Ugolin (1861, Musée d'Orsay, Paris) and to the seated portrait of Laurent de Médicis sculpted by Michelangelo (1526-1531, Chapel of the Medici, Church San Lorenzo, Florence).
While keeping its place in the monumental complex of La Porte, The Thinker was exposed in isolation in 1888 and thus became an autonomous work. Enlarged in 1904, it took a monumental dimension that further increased its popularity: this image of a man immersed in his reflections, but whose powerful body suggests a great capacity for action, has become one of the most famous sculptures that are.
Rodin never wanted to say what his character was thinking, only explaining: "My Thinker does not only think with his brain, his wrinkled forehead, his open nostrils and his pursed lips, but also with every muscle in his arms, his back and legs."