Dina Vierny has confirmed the authenticity of this sculpture.
John Rewald, the great writer on Impressionism and the author of the first monograph in English on Maillol, has called L'Action enchaînée one of the sculptor's "greatest works...the noble bearing and the proud attitude of this statue are a symbol of triumph over every obstacle. The naked figure, bending forward with arms tied behind her back, appears strong enough to crush by the sheer radiance of her joy the forces which shackle liberty" (op. cit., p. 16).
The dynamism, power and strength of this figure represent both an inspired and successful realization of the commission for which Maillol executed it, and Maillol's own driving ambition to establish a reputation as a sculptor of monumental public works. In 1903 a committee led by the writer Octave Mirbeau rejected Maillol when choosing a sculptor for a monument to the novelist Emile Zola--it was a bitter blow to the sculptor. Mirbeau had dissented in his favor, and fortunately was on another committee two years later, with Georges Clemenceau, Gustave Geffroy and Anatole France, seeking a sculptor to create a monument dedicated to Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) on the centennial of his birth. Blanqui, a lifetime revolutionary and a tireless advocate of republican rights in the face of tyranny, had spent 36 years in prison on various charges. Rodin had suggested Camille Claudel for the project, but she was already showing symptoms of the mental illness that would end her career. Maillol's conception based on a large female figure impressed Clemenceau, and the sculptor received an advance of seven thousand francs to undertake L'Action enchaînée, although he ended up having to cover much of the cost out of his own pocket.
Maillol worked quickly on his sculpture in his Banyuls studio and completed several studies within ten days. The final model was ready by the end of the year. In contrast to the 19th century conception of the heroic, but weak and suffering female allegorical figure, Maillol's version is robust and Amazonian. Indeed, its sense of movement is unique within Maillol's oeuvre. Bertrand Lorquin has observed,
A striking image of a figure being forcibly restrained, it substitutes anger and repressed rebelliousness for the characteristic contemplative serenity we usually associate with Maillol. Everything in this sculpture rests on the contrast between massive weight and lightness; the impression one gets is that the sculptor struggled to transform the power of its movement into a gesture at once flowing and fettered (op. cit., pp. 56, 58-59).
The monumental version was installed in Puget-Théniers, Blanqui's birthplace, in October 1908, although contemporary public officials, mindful of Blanqui's still controversial reputation, chose to ignore the event. A bronze cast from same edition as the present work was included in Dina Vierny's donation to the French state, and in 1964 was installed together with seventeen other important Maillol sculptures near the Carousel in the Jardin des Tuileries.