Lot 10
  • 10

Aristide Maillol

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  • Aristide Maillol
  • La Rivière
  • inscribed Aristide Maillol, numbered 5/6 and stamped with the foundry mark E Godard Fondeur Paris
  • bronze
  • 137 by 232 by 155cm., 54 by 91¼ by 61in.


Private Collection, Switzerland
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Waldemar George, Aristide Maillol, Neuchâtel, 1965, illustration of another cast p. 205
Waldemar George, Maillol, Paris, 1971, illustration of another cast pp. 24-25
Aristide Maillol: 1864-1944, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1975, no. 106, illustration of another cast p. 95
Maillol, Musée Départemental, Yamanashi, 1984, illustration of another cast pp. 3 & 147
Maillol aux Tuileries, the Tuileries, Paris, 1991, illustration of another cast pp. 17-19 and on the cover
Bertrand Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, London, 1995, illustration of another cast pp. 144-145, 199 and on the cover
Flammarion (ed.), ABCdaire de Maillol, 1996, illustration of another cast pp. 96-97
Museum of Modern Art (ed.), MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1999, illustration of another cast p. 169
Aristide Maillol, Palais des Congrés, Perpignan, 2000, no. 90, illustration of another cast pp. 150-151 and on the cover
Le Musée Maillol s’expose, Paris, 2008, illustration of another cast pp. 82-83

Catalogue Note

Aristide Maillol began his career in tapestry making, establishing a tapestry studio of his own in his hometown of Banyuls-sur-Mer in 1893. When serious eyestrain - an occupational hazard - forced him to re-think his profession in 1900, he turned his attentions to sculpture.

Almost the entirety of Maillol's sculptural œuvre centres on the female figure. He treated her body with a Classical attention to simplicity and stillness. Today, Maillol is considered an important pre-cursor to the further formal simplifications of Henry Moore. Works such as Venus in the Musée des Beaux-Arts and Les Trois Grâces in the Tuileries typify Maillol's emulation of Greek Classical statuary - in their subject matter as well as their serenity, balance and beauty.

La Rivière, one of Maillol's final projects, is a notable exception in his repertoire. In her active contortion and bold instability, the woman of this sculpture abandons Classical form and staging. Her figure overflows its base and invades the surrounding space as though the pressure of the river's current is weighing down on her like a surging flood. Far from the harmony found in paradigmatic Classical works such as Venus de Milo, this work is more attuned to the Hellenistic explorations of the Laocoon and the Barberini Faun, where the ideology of fifth century 'Greek Naturalism' was challenged and redefined.

La Rivière was originally conceived as a monument sculpture to French philosopher, politician and renowned pacifist Henri Barbusse. Maillol modelled a woman stabbed in the back and falling downwards, perhaps shielding herself from her aggressors with her up-thrust arms, as an inverse celebration of Barbusse's pacifying ideals. When the commission fell through, Maillol developed the sculpture into a personification of swelling water. In this light, the natural, unchecked energies of the river comes to mirror the social and political uncertainties of the mid-twentieth century. Maillol conceived this work two years before the beginning of the Second World War, when tensions and troubles were coming to a head. 

La Rivière is one of Maillol's most highly-regarded sculptures, with casts in the permanent collections of both the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in the Tuileries, Paris. Another version from the collection of the late Dina Vierny, Maillol's last muse and model, sold last year at Paris auction house Artcurial making a world record for the artist. This precarious, twisting, turning woman is a testament to the sheer clarity of Maillol's vision and serves as one of the most magnificent conceptions of socio-political unrest in twentieth-century European art.