Inspired by Dante's Inferno, Rodin conceived his original Adam and Eve as figures to flank The Gates of Hell, a huge bronze portal commissioned for the Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris, that included 186 high-relief and freestanding dynamic figures. He never finished the ambitious work, which also included a version of The Thinker. The Adam is nude, with swelling muscles, portrayed as languidly coming to life. Indisputably it finds its artistic source in Michelangelo's twisting, massive sculptural types such as his Slaves for the tomb of Julius ll. The actual model for it, however, was Calloux, a Parisian weightlifter reputed to be able to raise barbells of two hundred pounds or more over his head.
In 1924 Allerton purchased a bronze casting of the Adam from the Rodin estate and gave it to the Chicago Art Institute for its permanent collection. With the museum's consent, he then had a stone copy made for his Monticello gardens, but as it was transported downstate an ankle split and the statue had to be installed in a somewhat weakened condition. No further misfortune befell it until 1975, when a park visitor attempting to climb to the top knocked the figure over, leaving it irreparably broken. An Indiana stonemason made this version two years later. It looks crude and lacks artistic fidelity, attributable in part to the stone's being deliberately left uncut between the legs and fingers and near the right hand (which seems to possess six fingers), a decision evidently made to lend the sculpture durability and strength.
Widely acknowledged to be one of the late nineteenth century's most influential, controversial artists, Rodin produced varied and innovative sculpture of great vitality and aesthetic value, and, often, of considerable romantic poetic imagery. Among his best-known creations are his monuments to Balzac and to Victor Hugo, and The Thinker, The Burghers of Calais, The Kiss, and The Hand of God. He would not think much of Allerton Park's Adam.