La Nymphe aux fleurs is one from a series of nymphs that Maillol created between 1931 to 1937 in preparation for his majestic sculpture Les trois nymphes. The figure presented here can be seen on the left of the full ensemble, with an almost identical mirror figure on her right, both hand-in-hand with a central figure whose back is turned to the viewer. Classical in composition and form, the three figures harmoniously holding hands recall the Three Graces of Greek mythology, however due to their robust and powerful physical attributes, Maillol insisted that they were nymphs of the ‘flowery meadows’ rather than Graces. The emphasis on the perfection of line and purity of the female form so characteristic of Maillol’s work is fully evident in La Nymphe aux fleurs: her rounded, fecund curves resonate throughout her body yet she conveys a sense of classical serenity and repose. She stands alone with one arm poised delicately at her side, the other held up in an almost inviting manner, gazing directly ahead. Maillol used his maid Marie as the model for this figure, accentuating her smooth, lush youthful contours to convey a harmonious presence and idealized beauty.
In observing Maillol’s female figures Octave Mirbeau noted: “She presents the idea of force, of the promise of the flesh; she gives the idea of life because she is life. And her strength is tempered by her divinity; it’s filled with infinite beauty, with natural and spontaneous grace. A strange seductiveness is present, emanating an incomparable female charm. The sensuality pervading her skin has the exquisite freshness and limpid beauty of a flower, of the tree’s young branch and of the dawn. The heady scent of spring is exhaled from her pores – spring, so fresh, so joyful, so strong and invincible, so ardent and creative, inspiring the whole of nature to break forth into sudden flower. She is Maillol’s Woman, a new approach to the sculpture of our time, a new treasury of admirable, living form” (Octave Mirbeau, Aristide Maillol, Paris, 1921).
La Nymphe aux fleurs was cast in a bronze edition of six numbered casts and four artist's proofs. The present bronze, which was cast by the Alexis Rudier Foundry during the artist's lifetime, belonged to the artist himself and was later acquired by his model and muse, Dina Vierny.