Olivier Lorquin has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
This gracefully sensual sculpture is Maillol's tribute to Flora, the ancient Roman goddess of spring and flowers. It is a nude variant on a sculpture of the same title that depicts the goddess clad in clinging, diaphanous drapery and holding a floral garland across her hips (see Christie's, New York, 1 November 2011, lot 72). The clothed Flore is one of four life-sized female figures that Maillol created between 1910 and 1912 for the renowned collector Ivan Morosov, to adorn the corners of the neoclassical music room in his Moscow villa. The Morosov commission was comprised of two pairs of sculptures, each juxtaposing mortal and divine beauty. The delicate Flore and the lithe, adolescent Printemps together evoke the fragile blossoms of spring, while the fullness of the harvest is embodied in Pomone, the Roman goddess of fruit trees, and the voluptuous Eté, a ripe young woman at the height of fecundity (see Christie's, New York, 1 November 2011, lot 15). Linda Kramer has written, "These figures represent the luscious flowering beauty that Maillol found the most attractive aspect of both young women and nature, while also offering him the opportunity to associate his ideal of feminine beauty with that of goddesses" (Aristide Maillol: Pioneer of Modern Sculpture, Ph.D. diss., New York University, 2000, pp. 155-156).
Flore is a key sculpture in Maillol's ongoing effort to fuse an earthly sensuality with the formal traditions of classical antiquity, which he viewed as the rightful artistic inheritance of his Mediterranean homeland. The noble bearing and iconic, columnar pose of Flore--the head and shoulders squarely frontal, the right knee bent and left hip slightly lifted in a subtle contrapposto--recall the stately caryatids of the Erechtheum in Athens, which had captivated Maillol on his seminal trip to Greece in spring 1908. "The most exceptional work to come from the hand of men," he called the Erechtheum maidens, fantasizing in a letter to Maurice Denis about sitting for a month at the foot of the ancient temple (quoted in ibid., p. 149). The compact bonnet of hair that Maillol has given his goddess, meanwhile, is indebted to the pedimental sculptures from Olympia, visible behind the artist in a photograph by his patron and traveling companion Count Henry Kessler. "Flora nevertheless contains something of a young woman from Banyuls," Kramer has written. "Her head is based on that of young girl Maillol saw on the street, which he modeled in clay as she passed by" (ibid., p. 157). And Roger Fry has commented, "Flora has a rustic simplicity and bluntness of form which is quite distinct from the aristocratic perfection of the Greeks" ("The Sculptures of Maillol" in The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 17, no. 85, April 1910, p. 31).
An appealing figure of allegorical and metaphorical power, erotic suggestiveness and beauty, Flora was a popular subject in Roman art and poetry: "As she talks, her lips breathe spring roses: I was Chloris [a Greek flower-nymph], who am now called Flora," Ovid wrote in his Fasti (v. 194-195). Flora was worshipped in two temples in ancient Rome, one on the slopes of the Quirinal Hill and the other near the Circus Maximus. She was honored from late April to early May each year at a seven-day festival called the Floralia, a tradition that later became manifest in May Day celebrations. The Floralia featured chariot races, athletic contests, and theatrical performances of a notoriously bawdy and licentious character. A more dignified and metaphorical but still classically informed ideal of the goddess entered into later European historical and aesthetic consciousness. Flora frequently appears in Renaissance, baroque and neoclassical art, such as Sandro Botticelli's mural La Primavera, 1477-1482 (Uffizi Gallery, Florence). Maillol envisioned in Flora's attributes--springtime, blossoming, regeneration, and fecundity--a conception of woman as the very embodiment of nature in its totality.