Lot 15
  • 15


2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • Aristide Maillol
  • La Rivière
  • Inscribed Aristide Maillol and with the foundry mark E. Godard Fondeur Paris
  • Bronze
  • Length: 91 3/4 in.
  • 233 cm
  • Conceived in 1938-40; this example cast in 2015 as number EA 4/4 from an edition of 12.


Galerie Dina Vierny, Paris

Private Collection, London (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above


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 (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1975, no. 106, illustration of another cast p. 95

Aristide Maillol (exhibition catalogue), Departmental Museum of Fine Arts, Yamanashi, 1984, illustrations of another cast pp. 3 & 147

Bertrand Lorquin, Maillol aux Tuileries, Paris, 1991, illustrations of another cast pp. 17-19 & on the cover

Bertrand Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, London, 1995, illustrations of another cast pp. 144-45, 199 & on the cover

L'ABCdaire de Maillol, Paris, 1996, illustration of another cast pp. 96-97

MoMA Highlights: 325 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1999, illustration of another cast p. 169

Aristide Maillol (exhibition catalogue), Palais des Congrés, Perpignan, 2000, no. 90, illustrations of another cast pp. 150-51 & on the cover

Bertrand Lorquin, Le Musée Maillol s’expose, Paris, 2008, illustration of another cast pp. 82-83

Catalogue Note

Born in 1866 to a family of farmers in the ancient coastal town of Banyuls-sur-Mer, the young Aristide Maillol began his artistic career with a full scholarship to the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. After graduating, he opened a tapestry shop and received great acclaim for his designs but left the medium behind in favor of sculpting, starting with small terracotta studies of his wife. Having grown up in an ancient Greek settlement as well as being a fervent admirer of the Impressionists, his sculptures were inspired by the pared-down elegance of Gauguin’s Tahitian women as well as the austere and dramatic sculptures of antiquity, resulting in works that appear both monumental and intimate. Originally intended as a war memorial for the poet-turned-pacifist Henri Barbusse, Maillol began work on a sculpture depicting a woman falling to the ground after being stabbed in the back. Due to the financial difficulties in Barbusse’s estate, this version was never completed. Despite the sudden lack of funds, Maillol continued production of the sculpture with a revised theme of the female figure as the personification of a river.

In the original context as a commission for a war memorial, the figure appears to take no action against her attack, complementing Barbusse’s own pacifist philosophy. In her revised context as the personification of a river, the dynamic twisting of the torso depicts her figure as if swept away by the currents, her arms held up in an attempt to lessen the impact of the waves. Though the history of the sculpture’s creation is interesting in a historical context, it is the flawless execution of the woman’s figure which allows the viewer to look past the variances in context to focus solely on the skillful rendering of her form.

The contorted positioning of her body closely resembles that of the Sabine woman from Giambologna’s famous sculpted group The Rape of the Sabine Women in Florence (see fig. 1). Both La Rivière and the Sabine woman display expressions of mild surprise, with slightly parted lips the only feature belying any emotions. They both share a simultaneous lack of reaction and abundance of grace in situations that instinctively trigger the opposite. If one were to turn the Sabine woman horizontally, the twisting of her torso and the positioning of her limbs would be nearly identical to those of La Rivière.

This impressive bronze was created by Maillol at the end of his career, nearly forty years after his first foray into sculpting. Using his longtime muse Dina Vierny as the model for this work, this faultless execution of simple lines and strong, voluptuous proportions is balanced beautifully, making it one of the most successful and well-received works of Maillol’s long career.

Dina Vierny’s son, Bertrand Lorquin said of the sculpture, “Monumentality does not require to be looked up to, but simply to be looked at. This was a radically new concept of the function of monumental sculpture, for it introduced a new relationship between the statue and the viewer” (L. Clement, Learning to Look: A Visual Response to Mavis Gallant’s Fiction, Toronto, 2000, p. 267). This praise from Lorquin and a myriad of art critics has held true in the decades since it’s reveal; other casts of this sculpture are held at world-renowned institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris.

This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre d’Aristide Maillol currently being prepared under the supervision of Olivier Lorquin.