Conceived circa 1886-1887. According to Comité Rodin, this plaster was made at the request of the sculptor around 1900, most likely by Eugene Guioché, caster of Rodin between 1897 and 1915. The Rodin Museum archives hold a letter from André Delanglade, nephew of the sculptor Charles Delanglade, Marseille (1870-1952) dated January 2, 1927, to Georges Grappe, curator of the Rodin Museum, mentioning the numerous works acquired from Rodin by the Marseilles collector Antoni Roux, works later given by Roux to Delanglade at the death of his son. It shows that his "uncle Delanglade" also received directly from Rodin two plasters "A figure of despair" and "Little Mermaids" with a dedication to Paul Arene.
Auguste Rodin’s most highly praised work relates to the commission of a set of monumental doors for the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1880. These were the revolutionary Gates of Hell. Inspired by Dante's Inferno and Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgement, the bronze decorative doors stand 7.5m high and depict a sea of writhing and restless bodies in a state of chaos. The work became an obsessive passion for Rodin and was still unfinished 24 years later in 1904, when the State withdrew funding for casting. He continued working on and off this project until his death in 1917. The museum itself was never developed.