Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)


Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
signed with monogram and inscribed with foundry mark '.Alexis Rudier. .Fondeur. Paris.' (on the back)
bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 11 1/8 in. (28.2 cm.)
Conceived in 1900; this bronze version cast during the artist's lifetime
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York.
Private collection, Minneapolis.
Jane Wade, Ltd., New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, January 1972.
J. Rewald, Aristide Maillol, Paris, 1939, pp. 110-111 (another cast illustrated).
W. George, Aristide Maillol, Berlin, 1964, p. 232 (another cast and terracotta version illustrated, pl. 137).
W. George, Maillol, Paris, 1971, p. 56 (another cast illustrated).
W. George, Maillol et l'âme de la sculpture, Neuchâtel, 1977, p. 128 (another cast and terracotta version illustrated, pl. 139).
B. Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, Geneva, 1994, p. 53 (another cast illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Olivier Lorquin has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

During the early 1890s Maillol was most deeply involved with painting and making tapestries. He had carved some reliefs and statuettes in wood, but did not turn to sculpture as his primary means of expression until an eye inflammation he contracted in 1898 caused him to close his tapestry workshop. Maillol began modeling clothed and nude female figures in clay and terracotta, yielding detail to simplification of form and surface. He imbued his young female models (most frequently his wife Clothilde) with simple grace and charm which critics at first mistook for superficiality of temperament or want of technique.
The woodcarvings of Paul Gauguin had an influence on Maillol's earliest reliefs, but by the late 1890s the sculptor was seeking inspiration elsewhere, notably the serene and static art of the Egyptians. He was similarly intrigued by Khmer sculpture he had seen in the Universal Expositions in Paris in 1889 and 1900. Gauguin had rejected the art of classical Greece, and although Maillol also had little interest in the naturalistic tradition of Greek sculpture at its peak, the primitivism of the earlier archaic period attracted him. However, it was not until his first visit to Greece in 1903 that Maillol fully responded to the impact of Greek sculpture, and by then it served as more confirmation of the path he had already taken rather than as the revelation of an unsuspected world of beauty. Maillol declared, "I prefer the still primitive art of Olympus to that of the Parthenon...It is the most beautiful thing that I have seen; it is more beautiful than anything else in the world. It is an art of synthesis, a higher art than ours today, which seeks to represent the human flesh. If I had lived in the 6th century I should have found happiness in working with those men" (quoted in J. Rewald, Maillol, op. cit., p. 17).
Leda refers to the fables of ancient Greece, the wife of Tyndareus, King of Sparta, by whom she bore the mortal children Castor and Clytemnestra. The god Zeus visited her in the form of an elegant swan; the union would yield Pollux and Helen (later abducted by Paris to Troy). One may imagine Leda seated near the water's edge as the swan draws close to her; she turns away and holds up her hand as if to ward off the god's affections. The myth, however, is only pretext for Maillol's treatment of the demure nude. John Rewald has observed: “To celebrate the human body, particularly the feminine body, seems to have been Maillol's only aim. He did this in a style from which all grandiloquence is absent, a style almost earthbound and grave. The absence of movement, however, is compensated by a tenderness and charm distinctively his own; and while all agitation is foreign to his art, there is in his work, especially in his small statuettes, such quiet grace and such warm feeling that they never appear inanimate. He has achieved a peculiar balance between a firmness of forms which appear eternal and a sensitivity of expression—even sensuousness—which seems forever quivering and alive” (ibid., pp. 6-7).

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