Olivier Lorquin has confirmed the authenticity of this sculpture.
This gracefully sensual sculpture is Maillol's tribute to Flora, the ancient Roman goddess of spring and flowers, in the definitive version that he completed in 1910 and shown in the Salon d'Automne that year. It is closely related to the sculpture of the same title, one in a quartet of life-size sculptures representing the seasons, which Maillol created to fulfill a commission from the Russian collector Ivan Morosov for his villa in Moscow; please see the note for Maillol's L'Eté, lot 15 in this catalogue.
Maurice Denis summed up Maillol's vision of the female figure: "Maillol strives to create forms of perfect beauty and simplicity" (quoted in J. Rewald, op. cit., 1939, p. 161). Maillol has depicted his Flore in a full-length dress of a clinging and diaphanous fabric; the subtle contrapposto in her formal, ritualistic stance recalls the stately temple caryatids of ancient Greece. According to Linda K. Kramer, "Flora nevertheless contains something of a young woman from Banyuls. Her head is based on that of young girl Maillol saw on the street, which he modeled in clay as she passed by (op. cit., 2000, p. 157). Flore is a key sculpture in Maillol's efforts to fuse earthly sensuality with the formal stylistic motifs of the ancient world and his Mediterranean heritage. Roger Fry commented, "Flora has a rustic simplicity and bluntness of form which is quite distinct from the aristocratic perfection of the Greek." (Roger Fry, "The Sculptures of Maillol" in The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 17, no. 85, April 1910, p. 31).
An appealing figure of allegorical and metaphorical power, erotic suggestiveness and beauty, Flora was a popular subject in antique Greco-Roman art and poetry, most characteristically in the Roman poet Ovid's Fasti: "As she talks, her lips breathe spring roses: I was Chloris, who am now called Flora." (Ovid, Fasti, v. 194-195). The ancient Roman festival of Floralia honored the divinity from late April to early May, a tradition which later became manifest in May Day celebrations. The Floralia theatre and games were both enjoyed by many, while decried by some for their extreme licentiousness. A more dignified, metaphorical but still classically informed ideal of Flora entered into later European historical and aesthetic consciousness. Flora frequently appears in renaissance, baroque and neo-classical art and literature, one of the best-known examples being Sandro Botticelli's mural La Primavera, 1477-1482, in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
Representing the natural world, springtime, regeneration and fecundity, Flora was a favorite allegorical subject for many artists, who took her to represent the beneficence of creativity. Maillol envisioned in her attributes a conception of woman as the very embodiment of nature in its totality. Octave Mirbeau wrote in 1905, "the woman of Maillol's creation is always chaste, full of ardour, and magnificent. She can give us the conception of strength, of the perfection of the human body, because she presents us with the conception of life, because she is life itself. She is woman created by Maillol; she is his contribution to the sculpture of today. This new treasure of admirable, living forms is offered by a great, virile and sensitive artist to the art of France and of the world" (quoted in J. Rewald, op. cit., 1939, p. 22).