The late Dina Vierny confirmed the authenticity of this sculpture.
Maillol modeled Torse d’une femme in 1899, the year after he abandoned painting, tapestry design, and wood carving in order to devote himself fully to modeling in clay. This lithe, slender female figure–truncated at the shoulders and knees, her head turned in elegant profile and her left hip raised in subtle contrapposto–represents a close variant on the full-length Ève à la pomme, who holds an apple in her lowered left hand. Together, these two statues are among the very earliest in Maillol’s oeuvre to achieve the radical formal purity that would govern his mature aesthetic and earn him his formative place in the history of modern sculpture. “Before long he was creating masterpieces of balance and perfection,” Bertrand Lorquin has written. “His production was rarely again to attain the intensity it had in this dazzling, deeply moving moment in the genesis of his oeuvre. Eve Holding the Apple 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” (Aristide Maillol, London, 1995, p. 38).
Maillol first explored this graceful pose in a ceramic wall fountain of 1898-1899, decorated in low relief with the mythical Three Graces. Through the simple addition of the apple, he transformed the figure into Eve, who turns her head towards Adam and displays the forbidden fruit in her open palm (sale, Christie’s, London, 21 June 2012, lot 343). “Eve represents all women and would have had special appeal for Maillol because she was the first and was thus closest to her origins in nature,” Linda Kramer has written (Aristide Maillol, Pioneer of Modern Sculpture, Ph.D. Diss., New York University, 2000, p. 79).
For the present Torse, Maillol modeled a version of Ève à la pomme with neither arms nor lower legs, creating an autonomous and powerfully modern sculpture, stripped of all narrative content and emphasizing instead the abstract qualities of surface and pose. “This eschewal of any distinctive emblem,” Lorquin has explained, “clearly reveals the artist’s determination to avoid the literary or symbolic idioms traditionally associated with sculpture” (op. cit., 1995, p. 34). At the same time, by omitting the limbs, Maillol underscored the nude figure’s timeless, classicizing grace. A fervent admirer of antiquity and frequent visitor to the Greek galleries in the Louvre, Maillol appreciated the famous Venus of Milo–which originally held in one hand the golden apple that the mythical prince Paris had awarded the goddess–all the more because it was preserved without arms, which he believed “would add nothing to its beauty; on the contrary they would probably detract from it” (quoted in ibid., p. 112).
Although Maillol followed Rodin in exploring the sculptural possibilities of the partial figure (or morceau, to use Rodin’s term), his nascent style of balance, harmony, and quiet restraint represented a bold departure from the expressive gestures, dramatic movement, and textured surfaces that the older master favored, which constituted the dominant force in European sculpture at the turn of the century. In Torse de femme, Maillol has structured the figure around a unified series of smooth, graceful arcs–the rounded left hip, the gently sloping shoulders, the compact bonnet of hair–that express the beauty of the female form in highly distilled, almost abstract terms. “I look for architecture and volumes,” Maillol explained to his biographer Judith Cladel. “I always start from a geometric figure, square, lozenge, triangle, because these are the figures which hold best in space” (quoted in L. Kramer, op. cit., 2000, p. 79).