Profile of a Woman

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)

1896, pastel and charcoal on grey wrapping paper

Why is this work so important?

This very fine pastel drawing is almost certainly an already very advanced preparatory study for a portrait in oils. Drawing “Profile of a woman”, for Maillol, was not simply a way taking notes for a painting or a sculpture, it was a finished work in its own right.

Small drawings cabinet

Here, five years later, the artist has taken up the theme of the female in profile that inspired a series of paintings in the early 1890s. From the time of the Italian Renaissance, artists have loved to execute profiles as they sought to better integrate the lines of the profile into the background landscape. Maillol, for his part, applied himself to drawing a line that clarified the facial contours, almost as if he intended to sculpt the profile. The sinuous contours exacerbate the enigmatic aspect of the portrait, shrouding it in a certain mystery. The woman’s closed eyes and her meditative pose, speak of her inner concentration.

In detail

The extremely elegant disposition is particularly balanced and decorative. The arabesques of the foliage, symbolic of life and youth, echo the swirls of the chignon.

Did you know?

Maillol never stopped drawing. It was even thanks to drawing that as a young man, he won a scholarship to study, first in Perpignan and then in Paris. Later on, drawing would continue to occupy a central place in his work and his life.