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Torse de L'Ile de France (Torso of Ile de France)

Not on view

Torse de L'Ile de France (Torso of Ile de France)

Artist: Aristide Maillol (French, 1861 - 1944)

Date: 1910-1921
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions:
Overall: 47 3/4 x 15 1/2 x 20in. (121.3 x 39.4 x 50.8cm)
Signed: Top of base, at rear: 'M' [encircled]; '5/6'
Markings: Foundry stamp: 'Valsuani'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 58.5
Label Text
L'Ile de France is comparatively unusual in Maillol's oeuvre in that it shows a figure in motion. Maillol first mentioned his desire to make a figure walking through water in 1907, but he seems to have begun making the work in 1910. The origins of the title are unclear. It has often been said that the figure is a personification of the Ile de France region, the area where the Marne and Oise rivers feed into the Seine, hence the woman who walks in water. However, early references to the work give the title as Woman Who Walks in Water, Bather, and The Parisian. That last title may allude to the slimness of the model, which is unusual in Maillol's oeuvre: he often mentioned his preference for the short, thick-set models he found in his native Catalan area in south-west France. Whatever the case, Maillol was supremely indifferent to titles and often changed them. The title seems to have been chosen in the late 1920s, but even in the 1930s the sculpture was often referred to simply as Bather.

Patrick Elliot
2005

Text Entries

Almost all of Maillol’s sculptures are of nude women. Even when asked to make commemorative memorials to famous men, he chose to symbolize their achievements with female nudes. They are generally in static poses, simply standing, crouching or lying down. Maillol’s preference for static, volumetric forms marked him out as the leader of a new kind of sculpture, which rejected the tortured poses and impressionistic modeling of Rodin. L’Ile de France is comparatively unusual in Maillol’s oeuvre in that it shows a figure in motion.  Maillol first mentioned his desire to make a figure walking through water in 1907, but he seems to have begun making the work in 1910.[1] The photographer Brassaï recalled a conversation he had with Maillol, who stated: “For the Ile de France, I had a marvellous girl with firm little breasts, very high. I only used her torso. When you come across a marvel like that, you work like the devil... I did that torso in a single afternoon. It was probably the fastest I ever worked. And I didn’t even have to retouch it.”[2] One of Maillol’s biographers stated that the sculpture was conceived with the hope that it would stand in the center of a courtyard in the Louvre; that hope remained unfulfilled.[3]

 

Although substantially finished by 1910, Maillol made some minor changes to L’Ile de France in January 1921, when an American collector, A. Conger Goodyear, commissioned the first bronze cast.[4] Goodyear gave the bronze to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York in 1930: they subsequently sold it to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.[5]  This cast has a thin oval base, arms cut off at right angles to the armpits (like a T-shirt) and legs cut off just below the knees. In the following years, Maillol made several different versions of the torso and had them cast by Claude Valsuani and Alexis Rudier, two of the leading bronze foundries in Paris. The first variant was shown at the Galerie Druet, Paris, in July 1921: this was the first time the sculpture had been exhibited. A version made around the end of 1921 has a thick oval base, but is otherwise identical to the Metropolitan Museum’s cast: it is 43 inches tall and is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland (Valsuani, unnumbered). A variant with the stumps of the arms pointing backwards is in the Von Der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, Germany (Alexis Rudier, 3/6). The version in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (Valsuani, 5/6) has the arms cut off in a clean line running diagonally from the curved ends of the shoulders to the armpits (like a cap-sleeve T-shirt), and the legs are cut off lower down, at the shins, making it 4 inches taller than the earlier versions.[6] An identical cast is in the Des Moines Art Center (Valsuani, 3/6) and another with a green patina was on the art market in 1999 (Alexis Rudier, 2/4).[7] Another variant of this taller version, an example of which is in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (Alexis Rudier, 1/6) has the arms cut off slightly higher up the shoulder and it also has a thinner base. Casts in the Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France (Valsuani, 2/6), the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (Alexis Rudier, 5/6), and the Kunstmuseum Winterthur (Valsuani, 1/4), all have slightly different variations to the base and the stumps of the arms, but all three versions have the longer legs. Some of the bases are completely flat, while others have marks that suggest the ripples of water. So while it has been said that there are three states of the Torso of the Ile de France,[8] there are in fact at least eight variants. Furthermore the color of the patina varies in each case, from light brown, as in the Munson-Williams-Proctor cast, to green-gold in the case of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s cast, to bottle green, in the version sold in 1999. The exact dates of most of these variant models is unknown, but they probably date from 1921 to 1925, while the actual casting in bronze would have been done as and when collectors and galleries wanted them, over a period of perhaps ten or twenty years. When Goodyear proposed his gift to MoMA in 1929, he stated that just four casts had been made.[9] Some of the bronzes may even be posthumous casts.

 

The practice of making slightly different variants of a sculpture was typical of Maillol: several of his most important works were made over lengthy periods, and produced in marginally different forms. It was also typical of him to start by making a torso, and then add the head and the limbs at a later stage. In 1925 he made a full-size, complete version of L’Ile de France, including head, arms (which bend behind the figure’s back, clutching a towel or drapery) and feet.[10] There is a stone version of this figure (without feet) in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and there are half-scale bronzes of the complete figure. The head, arms and feet of the complete figure were done without a model and, according to one source, Maillol was not entirely happy with them.[11] There are also six casts of the full standing figure with head, but without the arms (L’Ile de France sans bras).[12]

 

The origins of the title are unclear. It has often been said that the figure is a personification of the Ile de France region, the area where the Marne and Ouse rivers feed into the Seine, hence the woman who walks in water. However, early references to the work give the title as Woman who Walks in Water, Bather and The Parisian. That last title may allude to the slimness of the model, which is unusual in Maillol’s oeuvre: he often mentioned his preference for the short, thick-set models he found in his native Catalan area in south-west France.[13] The title “Ile de France” may have been borrowed from the celebrated French ocean liner of the same name, launched in 1927. Whatever the case, Maillol was supremely indifferent to titles and often changed them. The title seems to have been chosen in the late 1920s, but even in the 1930s the sculpture was often referred to simply as Bather.    

 

Patrick Elliot



[1] Diary of Harry Kessler, 5 August 1907.  See Maillol (Lausanne:  Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1996), 196.

[2] Brassaï, The Artists of My Life, tr. Richard Miller, (New York:  Viking Press, 1982), 117, from a conversation in December 1936. Henri Frère, Conversations de Maillol (Geneva:  Éditions Pierre Cailler, 1956), 86 and 136, reports a very similar conversation.

[3] Pierre Camo, Maillol, mon ami (Lausanne:  Éditions du Grand-Chêne, 1950), 55.

[4] Ibid, 61.

[5] Goodyear, a founding father of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, donated the cast in 1930, just a few months after the museum had opened. MoMA sold it to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1951. It bears neither a foundry mark nor an edition number, though according to the museum files, Dina Vierny, Maillol’s model and muse, stated that the cast was probably made by the Godard foundry.

[6] This bronze was purchased by the museum from Fine Arts Associates, New York, in 1958. Another cast of this version, cast by Valsuani and marked “artist’s proof” is in the Dina Vierny Foundation / Musée Maillol, Paris. 

[7] Sotheby’s New York, 11 May 1999, lot 111.

[8] G. Bresc-Bautier, A. Pingeot and A. le Normand-Romain, Sculptures des jardins du Louvre, du Carrousel et des Tuileries II (Paris:  Ministère de la culture, Réunion des musées nationaux, 1986), 295-96; and Hommage à Maillol (Paris:  Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, 1961), 12.

[9] In a letter to The Museum of Modern Art, dated 8 October 1929, Goodyear wrote: “This is one of four examples of this work.  It was finished by Maillol and I bought it while he was still working on it. It has a sort of golden patina which gives it a very different character from the other three examples of the same work.”  Letter kindly communicated by Clare Vincent, Associate Curator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

[10] This version was first exhibited at the Salon d’Automne, Paris, in 1930. Bronze casts are in the Jardins des Tuileries, Paris, the Bührle collection, The Hague, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, the Petit Palais, Paris, and Cologne.

[11] Frère, 300.

[12] Cast no.3/6, cast by the Godard foundry, was in the collection of the Galerie Dina Vierny in 2002. These “armless” casts may all be posthumous.

[13] Speaking of his full-figured sculpture entitled Pomona, 1910, Maillol observed that it was a representation of a Catalan woman, adding, “a Parisian model would never have given me that.” See Judith Cladel, Maillol: sa vie, son oeuvre, ses idées (Paris:  Éditions Bernard Grasset, 1937), 83.

Copyright
Presumed copyright: the artist or the artist's representative/heir(s) / Licensed by ARS, New York, NY.