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The Mediterranean

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)

1902-1905, bronze Alexis Rudier

Why is this work so important?

“She is beautiful and she signifies nothing; it is a silent work. I believe you have to go back a long way before you will find such a complete lack of interest in any preoccupation other than the simple manifestation of beauty”. That was how the author André Gide expressed his admiration for this statue of The Mediterranean.

Landing, 2nd floor

At the 1905 Salon d’Automne, where the work was presented, visitors were stunned by such a bold approach. At that time, sculpture was still very marked by the genius of Rodin, with its hugely expressive force. Yet it is in its simplicity that the beauty of the sculpture resides. There’s no exaggerated emotion, no bulging muscles. The face is expressionless, and the limbs are full, the skin is smooth. The interiority of the figure, its immobility, are an invitation to silence. It was with this work that Aristide Maillol launched the revolution of modern sculpture. Henceforth, he devoted himself almost entirely to this part of his work.

In detail

If you observe the sculpture in profile, you will notice that the limbs form a rigorous series of interlocking triangles. The smooth, massive volumes are harmoniously balanced. The silhouette is reduced to a few pure lines. « My Mediterranean is enclosed in a perfect square” concludes Maillol.

Did you know?

In actual fact, that genius is the fruit of several years’ work. The motif of the young woman seated in a hunched up pose haunted Maillol right from the start of his career. In the spring of 1900, he brought back to Paris the enlargement of a statuette for which he had studied the shape and movement of the masses at great length. He called this first state simply Crouching Woman. After five or six years’ hard work, his female nude, The Mediterranean was born.