In the summer of 1913, Renoir returned to the subject of the Judgment of Paris that he had first probed in 1908 with a sanguine drawing (coll. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.). While working on a painting of the subject (coll. Hiroshima Museum of Art) Renoir began for the first time to explore its potential in sculpture. Ambroise Vollard recalled seeing Renoir at work, "Arriving at Renoir's, I find him with a lump of clay in front of him, 'I can't resist it,' he said. 'I am going to try a small figure'" (quoted in P. Haesaerts, op. cit., p. 24). Acting on Renoir's direction, Richard Guino modified and executed a small Vénus debout (23 5/8 cm.; 60 cm.) and thus began an important collaboration between the two artists.
The subject of the sculpture is taken from Greek mythology and portrays Aphrodite at the moment when she triumphs over her rivals Hera and Athena, and is given the golden apple by Paris. Haesaerts notes that for the sculpture Renoir "had the belly and hips made heavier and the breasts lifted, and so produced a stocky, massive little woman, all flesh, a small animal-woman with an exceptionally long torso" (ibid.).
The small Vénus debout became the starting point for Grande Vénus Victrix, and differs from it not only in scale but also in the folds of the drapery, the proportion of the legs and the smoothness of the surface. For this ambitious larger than life-sized sculpture, Renoir asked Albert André to measure "Not the Venus de Milo, who is a big gendarme, but the Venus d'Arels or the Venus de Medici, for instance, or others" (ibid.). A young girl from Essoyes, Marie Dupuis, who was one of Renoir's favorite models during this period, modeled for Guino and Renoir made sketches to describe his conception of the movement of the drapery and expression of the head. They worked in a cellar studio at Les Collettes using clay from the garden until Renoir felt the work was ready to be cast in plaster, at which point they moved out-of-doors to continue in the open air in the olive grove. "Once the statue was molded in plaster, Renoir went back to work on it, determined to review it volume by volume, to leave no detail to chance, removing plaster in one place, adding it in another. He spared no pains: he wanted to attain perfection, wanted naturalness combined with style. He wanted his statue to be alive and free of abstract, though on the other hand it must not, to use his own expression, 'stink of the model'" (ibid.). When Renoir was finally satisfied, Vollard had Grande Vénus Victrix cast in bronze and, according to Haesaert, it is "the most consummate and the most complex of (Renoir's) sculptures, and, better than any other, satisfies demands which are almost conflicting. It is pushed to the point of ultimate perfections, and seems improvised. It is majestic and simple, familiar, in contact with the world, and yet distant, withdrawn, as it were, into solitude (ibid., p. 25).