It is an artistic vision of two fictional figures locked in an intimate embrace. But it spent a decade in its early history languishing in a stable. Now Auguste Rodin's The Kiss, the public's favourite sculpture, begins a fresh chapter in its varied life as it goes on display in Kent.
The 1900 work, on loan from the Tate, was exhibited for the first time yesterday at Margate's Turner Contemporary arts centre. During the past 12 years the work has only been seen outside London twice.
"We are already seeing some of the effect we are having on regeneration," said the centre's director, Victoria Pomery. "We are absolutely delighted to have The Kiss installed here."
The work, which immortalises two characters from Dante's Inferno, was a copy of an original 1888 sculpture, also by Rodin, commissioned by the French government. The later copy was ordered by Edward Warren, an American collector based in Sussex.
When it was delivered to him in 1904, he kept it in stables at his home for 10 years. It was later loaned to Lewes Council who displayed it in the town hall despite some objections to its erotic nature. The Tate bought it in 1955.
The sculpture, voted the nation's favourite in 2003, will be on display in Kent until next September. It is normally based at Tate Modern, but has been loaned to Tate Liverpool and Lewes town hall for periods in the past 10 years. "The embracing couple come from a true 13th-century story of forbidden love," said a Turner Contemporary spokesman.
The centre has attracted 250,000 visitors since opening in April.