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    Sale 1900

    Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

    6 November 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 17

    Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)


    Price Realised  


    Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
    signed with monogram (on the back of the base); inscribed and stamped with foundry mark 'EPREUVE DE L'ARTISTE C. Valsuani Cire Perdue' (on the side of the base)
    bronze with green and brown patina
    Height: 13½ in. (34.3 cm.)
    Conceived in 1939-1940 and cast at a later date

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    Dina Vierny has confirmed the authenticity of this sculpture.

    Maillol modeled this figure of Dina Vierny during 1939 and 1940. Dina was the artist's last muse and posed as a model for him until his death in 1944. In 1934, Maillol had written to Dina at the suggestion of the architect J.C. Dondelle, who was a friend of her father. She was just 15 years old when the 73 year-old Maillol invited her to his studio in Marly-Le-Roi just outside Paris and later to his summer retreat in Banyuls-sur-Mer, a fishing village in southern France, where he was born. "Mademoiselle, I am told you resemble a Maillol or a Renoir" he wrote, "I will be happy if it is a Renoir" (quoted in B. Schiff, "Aristide Maillol: The Sculptor, The Man and his Muse," in Smithsonian, Washington, June 1997, p. 102).

    Maillol had once remarked that the female type of his preference was exactly the same as Renoir's. He favored the full, voluptuous body with strong hips and heavy legs and arms. Dina's physical type and facial structure corresponded to Maillol's aesthetic requirements.

    This crouching figure of the young girl, either resting or bowed down in a serene act of humility, is recognizable as Dina from her characteristic band of tightly braided hair around her head. The sculpture is symmetrical with the heavy thighs and buttocks perfectly counterbalanced by the strong curve of the back, head and breasts. Maillol triumphs by creating a sense of solidity and volume in space. The figure bends over in a state of repose and well-poised equilibrium that evokes a sense of harmony. This small sculpture of Dina retains in its modest scale the same relationships between form, dimension and the proportions of the body as Maillol's monumental nude sculptures. Maillol was not a sculptor of movement, but, taking his cues from the statues of antiquity, he relished the static unity and rustic simplicity of ample, harmonious forms. As the British art critic Roger Fry commented "Maillol has endeavoured to show what meaning there may be in a figure at its moment of placid self-possession, what beauty in the large unimpassioned gestures of grave and sedate self-assurance" (quoted in The Burlington Magazine, April 1910, p. 27).

    The simple lines and understated form of Maillol's full-bodied nude reaffirms the Graeco-Roman tradition of sculpture. In contrast with Rodin, whose expressive sculptures with their surface materiality that underscore the process of the medium, the surface of Maillol's work is smooth overall, and his cast bronze sculptures imitate the polished surface of finely finished marble. Rodin had a reputation as the sculptor who had rejuvenated the medium of sculpture from its academic torpor; he was nevertheless one of Maillol's most ardent admirers. "Maillol", Rodin declared, "is one of the world's greatest sculptors...His taste is impeccable and he reveals a great knowledge of life in simplicity...The most admirable thing about Maillol, the eternal aspect, if I may express it thus, is his purity, his clarity, the limpid character of his craft and his thought" (quoted by Octave Mirbeau in W. George, Aristide Maillol, Greenwich, Connecticut, p. 213).

    Dina Vierny was the inspiration for the famous, unfinished sculpture Harmony, which Maillol began in 1941. She posed for a study of the work that year which is considered to be the culmination of all Maillol's work (fig.1).

    (fig.1) Dina Vierny and Maillol. Photograph by Louise Carré. BARCODE 25010848


    Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 18 May 1983, lot 82.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    G. Waldemar, Aristide Maillol, 1965, p. 247 (another cast illustrated, p. 212; marble version illustrated, p. 213).