- Aristide Maillol
- LA MÉDITERRANÉE
- inscribed with the monogram, numbered 1/4 and inscribed E.A. and with the foundry mark E. Godard Fondeur Paris
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 26th June 2001, lot 21
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Bertrand Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, Paris, 2002, illustration of the plaster p. 46
Maillol achieved great fame as a sculptor of the female form, employing it both naturalistically and as a symbol of the seasons and the wider natural world. La Méditerranée is a beautifully modelled nude, her head gently bowed in quiet contemplation. The voluptuous forms of the figure and the classically-inspired monumentality evoke a wonderful harmony of composition and serenity of mood, reflecting the calmness of the Mediterranean – and the civilisations surrounding it – which inspired Maillol. Originally conceived circa 1900-02, the present bronze, one of Maillol's most powerful sculptures, was cast posthumously by the artist's estate.
Dina Vierny, the sculptor's most celebrated model and muse, and Bertrand Lorquin commented on the first version of this bronze and the effect that it had on the public and critics: 'The first large-scale figure by the artist – which became the "lion" of the Salon d'Automne of 1905 – La Méditerranée seemed [...] to be the contrary to what Rodin wanted to achieve. Compared to a series of works by Rodin presented in a preceding room, this sculpture surprised with its simplicity, its gravity, and the public became immediately sensitive to the renewal that it heralded: if certain critics saw in it an imitation of ancient Greek sculpture, the majority were convinced by the sincerity of the artist' (D. Vierny & B. Lorquin, op. cit., p. 12, translated from the French).
John Rewald wrote: 'To celebrate the human body, particularly the feminine body, seems to have been Maillol's only aim. He did this in a style from which all grandiloquence is absent, a style almost earthbound and grave. The absence of movement, however, is compensated by a tenderness and charm distinctively his own; and while all agitation is foreign to his art, there is in his work, especially in his small statuettes, such quiet grace and such warm feeling that they never appear inanimate. He has achieved a peculiar balance between a firmness of forms which appear eternal and a sensitivity of expression – even sensuousness – which seems forever quivering and alive' (J. Rewald, Maillol, New York, 1958, pp. 6-7).
Fig. 1, A marble version of La Méditerranée in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris