- Aristide Maillol
- Torse Debussy
- Inscribed with the artist's monogram, numbered 1/6 and inscribed with the foundry mark E. Godard Fondeur Paris
- Height: 31 7/8 in.
- 78.7 cm
Acquired from the above in 1983
Bertrand Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, Paris, 2002, illustration of another cast p. 94
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Maillol created a small number of plasters of this form, casting a select few of them in bronze. Another bronze version of the full figure is in the collection of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York and is the artist's only treatment of the subject of music. Eschewing the orthodox approach to civic monuments of faithfully portraying their subject's likeness, Maillol casts a female figure as a personification of Debussy's genius and music. The gravitas of the figure in quiet contemplation evokes the harmony of the composer's work. The female nude had long been used as a compelling allegorical tool but the subject assumed a central position in Maillol’s characteristic personal style, the artist choosing to render the female form both allegorically and naturalistically.
Unlike fellow sculptor Rodin's expressive style using highly varied, dramatic compositions and detailed surface modeling, Maillol instilled a unique artistic approach by fusing pared-down modernist forms with the iconographic traditions of antiquity. He had long been fascinated with the art of Ancient Greece, through his studies of the Louvre's excellent collection, but it was a trip to the Greek islands with his patron Count Harry Kessler in 1908 that truly transformed his understanding of the ancient Greeks' approach to sculpture. He stated: ''I prefer the primitive art of Olympus to that of the Parthenon… It is an art of synthesis, a higher art than ours today, which seeks to represent the human flesh" (quoted in John Rewald, Maillol, London, 1939, p. 17).
The pose of Torse Debussy is undoubtedly derived from the Greek archetype of the Crouching Venus. Two particular versions of this in the Louvre's collection would have been very familiar to Maillol. The Aphrodite accroupie from the Gerantet Collection is especially closely linked to Torse Debussy in its elimination of the arms and head of the figure and in the delicate yet dramatic contrapposto animating the composition (see fig. 1).