The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Dina Vierny.
Estate of the artist
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York
Mr. and Mrs. Norton Simon, Los Angeles (acquired from the above in July 1965)
Lucille Ellis Simon, Los Angeles (sold: Christie's, New York, November 8, 2000, lot 8)
Acquired at the above sale
John Rewald, Maillol, Paris, 1939, illustration of the plaster and stone casts p. 56
Waldemar George, Maillol, Paris, 1971, illustration of another cast p. 16
Waldemar George, Aristide Maillol et l'âme de la sculpture, Neuchatel, 1977, illustration of another cast p. 119
Michel Bouille, Maillol: La femme toujours recommencée, Paris, 1989, pp. 41-41 and 46
The idealized beauty and classical form of Maillol's sculptures earned him a great deal of admiration in the early 20th century. Many of his best figures are allegorical, and this one, a personification of night, has several precidents in the history of art. The most apparent antecedant is Michaelangelo's famed La Notte in the Medici Chapel in Florence (see fig. 1), which Maillol must have considered when he rendered the present work. But unlike any of the Renaissance or Neo-Classical interpretations of this theme, Maillol's rendering of the limbs, the torso and head create a form that exemplifies the perfect geometry inherent in human anatomy. The artist has reinterpreted the figure with a much more modern approach, dramatically idealizing the human body into a form that is almost architectural in its precision.
Maillol exhibited a cast of this sculpture in the rotunda of the Grand Palais on the occassion of the annual Salon. The day before the opening, Rodin, who oversaw the placement of the sculpture at the exhibition, requested that one of his own works be displayed in this very spot. But upon seeing Maillol's glorious La Nuit in the middle of the rotunda, he changed his mind and agreed that it should remain as the centerpiece of the exhibition for all to see and enjoy.
Fig. 1, Michelangelo Buonarroti, La notte, 1520-1534, Medici Chapel, Florence
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