Olivier Lorquin has confirmed the authenticity of this sculpture.
The turn of the nineteenth century was the most formative of moments in Maillol's artistic development, in which he became the artist that we recognise today as one of the 20th Century's greatest sculptors. Prior to the late 1890s, Maillol had worked primarily as a painter and in the medium of tapestry as a member of the Nabis group. However, a problem with his eyes in 1898 led to a change of course in which Maillol abondoned painting and turned entirely to sculpture. His great muse was the female nude, and inspired by Egyptian, Khmer and archaic Greek art, Maillol began a period of intensive exploration where he depicted the female body in a range of varied postures and gestures. These lifetime casts of Eve à la pomme, conceived in 1899, and Baigneuse debout (lot 344), belong to this exciting moment in the development of his oeuvre and for Bertrand Lorquin Eve à la pomme 'is clearly the most accomplished expression of this series of experiments and is remarkable for the way it combines classical sobriety with a very clean treatment of the figure" (B. Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, London, 1995, p. 38).
Although ostensibly a depiction of Eve, the subject is more a conduit for the artist's sensual expression of the female form. The body contours are smooth and softly rounded, the pose fresh and innocent - but with the turn of her head and the open palm shyly displaying the apple there is more than a suggestion of Eve as temptress as well. Similarly, the simplicity and synthesis of classical and Oriental art manifest in Baigneuse debout greatly appealed to important collectors and leading artists of the time, and made this one of Maillol's most recognisable works. Indeed the great master August Rodin greatly admired it, purchasing a metal version in 1904, and the work featured in Edourard Vuillard's portrait of Pierre Bonnard with Bonnard himself depicting it in several of his own paintings. Created in this moment of inspiration and exploration, both works embody the abundance, grace, refinement and simplification of form that were to become the great hallmarks fo Maillol's later work.