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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION
Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)

Baigneuse allongée (Premier état pour le monument à Port-Vendres)

Details
Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
Baigneuse allongée (Premier état pour le monument à Port-Vendres)
signed and numbered 'A. MAILLOL' (on the left front of the base); numbered and inscribed with foundry mark 'E. GODARD Fondeur PARIS 2/6' (on the right side of the base)
bronze with dark green patina
Length: 96 ½ in. (245.2 cm.)
Conceived in 1922 and cast after 1944
Provenance
Dina Vierny, Paris.
Private collection (acquired from the above); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 3 May 2006, lot 36.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
B. Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, Geneva, 1994, p. 198 (another cast illustrated, p. 81).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Following the death of Rodin in 1917, Maillol became one the foremost French sculptors of the day. Despite his growing fame, however, the artist had yet to attract a state commission. He was therefore gratified when after the end of the First World War the towns of Céret, Elne and Port-Vendres, all near his native Banyuls, contracted him to create war memorials for the fallen, in the hope that the success of these projects, carved in marble, would finally lead to a major commission of this kind from the French state.
Maillol planned a seated figure for Céret, a standing pose for Elne, and a reclining configuration for Port-Vendres, as seen in the present Premier état pour le monument. The latter, stemming from the sculptor’s continuing work on his Monument à Cézanne, is the most lyrically conceived of the three. He envisioned the content for the Port-Vendres sculpture as a clear and meaningful contrast between the purpose of this sculpture—to commemorate those soldiers from the town who had sacrificed their lives for France during the First World War—and the allegorical recumbent female figure who tenderly extends to their departed spirits a handful of olive leaves, to grace their eternal rest. A vital, youthful woman—a virginal maiden, one may presume—she may have been a girlfriend, a sister, even a daughter to one of the men whose deaths she enshrines.
The Céret memorial was unveiled in 1922 and the Elne sculpture was installed in 1925. Although Maillol wanted to show these subjects nude, he acceded to local requirements that they be clothed. For Céret he adorned the seated female figure in local Catalan dress; with head mournfully in hand, she is titled La Douleur. For the Elne monument Maillol carved in marble a clothed variant of the standing nude Pomone that he had shown to acclaim at the 1910 Salon d’Automne, and the Russian collector Morosov purchased.
Maillol’s plan for the Port-Vendres memorial met with a complication. As in Le monument à Cézanne, his young model must be nude, Maillol believed, to embody the metaphorical effect of a flowing river, suggesting unceasing regeneration and timelessness. The mayor’s wife, however, vigorously protested when shown the maquette, and prevailed upon her husband to reject it. Angrily upset, Maillol had no choice but to prepare a new model, in which the figure was fully draped. The Port-Vendres monument was installed in 1924. Maillol had intended that the sculpture be viewed from a vantage point that made the figure appear to rest on the distant sea. It was sited, however, overlooking the harbor in such a way that spoiled this effect, which the added drapery further obscured.
Under the circumstances, the present Premier état would likely have made a stronger impression. The lithe, comely lines of the nude intended for Port-Vendres are unusual in Maillol’s oeuvre; the sculptor normally favored as his models women with fuller, more mature figures, to emphasize female fertility and sensual warmth. The classical purity of this figure’s girlish proportions, revealed in the nude, was nevertheless too risqué for the occasion. Thereafter divested of any topical purpose and inherent allegorical meaning, having become Baigneuse allongée, this young model is actually all the more appealing for the viewer today.
Much to Maillol’s disappointment, a commission from the French government for a war memorial did not materialize. He received instead a request to carve a marble version of La Méditerranée, the sculpture that established his reputation at the 1905 Salon d’Automne. When the City of Aix refused to accept his Monument à Cézanne, the City of Paris stepped in to acquire it. The stone version of Maillol’s chef doeuvre was finally installed in 1929, in the Tuileries gardens.

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