Reine-Marie Paris has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
One of the final compositions created by Claudel before her declining health forced her to cease her sculptural work, La joueuse de flûte (The Flute Player) embodies the sheer joy of free artistic creation, as the flutist of the title loses herself in the lilting music that emerges from her instrument. Entirely nude except for a sliver of drapery which wraps itself around her torso in a sweeping curve, the nubile young woman throws her head back as she touches her pursed lips to the flute. Although seated on the tree stump, her entire body quivers with the energy of the tune, each limb and muscle engaged in the performance. She appears uninhibited by her exposure, oblivious to the fabric slipping off her arm as she gives herself completely to the music. While the combination of sensual abandon and lyrical musicality in the siren’s body contains certain echoes of Claudel’s earlier sculptural group La Valse, this lone, isolated figure is absorbed by something of her own creation rather than the seductive moves of a partner, mesmerised by the beauty of the music alone.
Conceived during a period of extreme financial hardship for Claudel, as she fought to pay the rent each month and buy artistic supplies, La joueuse de flûte was sold to one the artist’s most ardent supporters during her late career – her trusted friend and principal agent, Eugène Blot. According to Blot, Claudel singled this sculpture out as her favourite work amongst her entire oeuvre, perhaps for the irresistible gaiety the musician exudes as she performs her tune. Blot intended to cast an edition of thirty bronzes of the composition, but only six were ever executed, making this one of the rarest works by Claudel.