ARISTIDE MAILLOL (1861-1944) La Méditerranée (Conceived in 1900-1902, this bronze version cast at a later date by the E. Godard Foundry in an edition of 6.)

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ARISTIDE MAILLOL
(1861-1944)
La Méditerranée

Refer to department
ARISTIDE MAILLOL (1861-1944)
La Méditerranée
stamped with the artist's monogram (on the top of the base) and inscribed with foundry mark 'E. GODARD Fondeur. PARIS' (on the back of the base)
bronze with green and brown patina
113 x 147.4cm (44 1/2 x 58 1/16in).
Conceived in 1900-1902, this bronze version cast at a later date by the E. Godard Foundry in an edition of 6.

Footnotes

  • The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the late Madame Dina Vierny.

    Provenance
    Galerie Nichido, Tokyo.
    Acquired from the above by the previous owner, October 1987; their sale, Christie's, New York, 12 November 2015, lot 35 C.
    Private collection, Hong Kong (acquired at the above sale).

    Literature
    B. Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, London, 1995 (plaster version illustrated in colour, p. 46).
    L. K. Kramer, Aristide Maillol: Pioneer of Modern Sculpture, PhD. Diss. New York University, 2000, pp. 100-116.

    First conceived around 1900, La Méditerranée marked Maillol's first life-sized figure, whose meditative beauty and classicism would establish his reputation as one of the country's foremost sculptors.

    On his first visit to the artist's studio in 1904, the German publisher and collector Count Harry Kessler purchased a small figurine, which was Maillol's first realisation of La Méditerranée, sculpted a few years earlier. Kessler requested a life-size version to be made – the plaster that resulted in June 1905 is the second and final version of this subject and varies from the first in small differences in the woman's right-hand arm and leg position. Originally titled Femme when exhibited at the Salon later that year, Maillol adopted Méditerranée in the 1920s instead, choosing deliberately to leave off the feminine article now commonly added. He wished to evoke the spirit of his native region around Banyuls-sur-Mer: 'I baptized it 'Mediterranean'... not 'The Mediterranean', that is, the sea... This was not the idea I was searching for... My idea was to create a figure, young, pure, luminous, and noble... But isn't all that the 'Mediterranean' spirit? That's why I chose her name' (Maillol quoted in L. K. Kramer, Aristide Maillol: Pioneer of Modern Sculpture, New York, 2000, p. 109).

    La Méditerranée's shameless beauty and grace provoked debate on its unveiling to the public, with the critic André Gide declaring, 'she is beautiful and meaningless.' Evoking the timeless and ideal rather than the emotions of an individual, Maillol's work presented a stark contrast to the dynamic, expressive and tactile bronzes of Auguste Rodin. The smooth, serene lines of Maillol's voluptuous nudes looked to the classical world for their inspiration and it was these life-size figures for which he became famous. Breaking away from contemporary modes of representation, Maillol's work would signify the start of modern sculpture: 'A sculpture that has been freed from the turmoil of passions and movement can surely be said to contain the seeds of an art that is abstract by nature. In La Méditerranée Maillol...created a timeless work that is modern before modernity, ancient long after antiquity' (B. Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, London, 1995, p. 49).

    The 1905 plaster prompted commissions from patrons wanting versions in more permanent materials: Kessler commissioned a full-sized stone version, now at Winterthur, whilst the French state purchased a marble in 1923 which is now housed in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Bronzes such as the present work were cast from the exhibited plaster, with other examples found in The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Jardin du Carrousel, Paris.
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ARISTIDE MAILLOL (1861-1944) La Méditerranée (Conceived in 1900-1902, this bronze version cast at a later date by the E. Godard Foundry in an edition of 6.)