Maillol sculptures in the Tuileries

This statue of a nude woman, with the Eiffel Tower visible in the distance over her left shoulder and the Orsay Museum off to her right, is called Pomone and was created in 1910 by the French sculptor Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). It is one of eighteen Maillol sculptures that are on permanent display at the east end of the Tuileries Garden, near the Place du Carrousel and between two wings of the Louvre Museum.

Pomone (aka Pomona) in ancient Roman mythology was a beautiful nymph who was known as the goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards. In Maillol’s statue she is holding a piece of fruit in each hand and is standing in a typical contrapposto pose, with her weight on her left leg and her right leg slightly bent at the knee.

Méditerranée by Aristide Maillol, 1905

This early sculpture by Maillol, Méditerranée, exists in numerous castings. In addition to this one in the Tuileries, there is also one on the sculptor’s grave in Banyuls-sur-Mer and one in the Maillol Museum in Paris, among other places. The label on this casting says it is made of “bronze with patina” and was “donated by the artist’s son Lucien Maillol in 1964, on Dina Vierny’s initiative.”

Dina Vierny, The Story of my Life (interviews with Alain Jaubert)

Dina Vierny (1919-2009) was Aristide Maillol’s model for the last ten years of his life, and was later his artistic executor and heiress.

In 1964 she made an appointment to speak with the Minister of Culture, André Malraux, because she was worried about the one Maillol sculpture that was in the Tuileries Gardens at that time, a statue of a nude woman called Monument to Cézanne. “Poor monument, it had only had misfortunes! It had been placed between two staircases where it was not really displayed effectively.” Also, the stone was in poor condition after decades of exposure to the elements, so she wanted to have the stone statue moved to an indoor museum and replaced in the gardens by a metal (lead) casting of the same statue. Malraux not only agreed to this (“He took me in his arms, he welcomed me like a queen!”) but said that if she could provide more Maillol statues he would arrange for them to be installed in the Tuileries as well. “In short, it was all decided in a quarter of an hour. Maillol had tried for fifteen years to get his Cézanne moved. And now all these statues arrived suddenly in the Tuileries!” (quotations from Dina Vierny, The Story of my Life, pages 162-163.)

People sitting on the lawn among the Maillol statues

The building in the background, behind these three statues, is the Denon wing of the Louvre, with the entrance Porte des Lions. This entrance used to be recommended as a quick way to get into the Louvre without queuing, but I’ve never had much luck with it. The last time I tried it they didn’t let me in, because they were only using this entrance for groups, not for individuals. Also, I have found that this is the first entrance they shut down if there is a strike or some of the guards call in sick. But theoretically it is again in use as an entrance for individual visitors, as of 2019.

The air

Dina Vierny at age 19 was Maillol’s model for this sculpture from the year 1938. It seems unlikely that she could have held this pose for very long at any one time, resting only on her right hip with everything else in the air. Maillol made the original sculpture in plaster, and several castings in lead or bronze were made after his death. This one in the Tuileries is made of lead.

The title, L’air, puts this sculpture in a long tradition of assigning allegorical meanings to statues of nude women. By coincidence, there is also a much older sculpture with the same title, from the seventeenth century, in the gardens behind the palace of Versailles, as shown in the first photo of my post on Allegorical statues. Unlike the young lady in Versailles, Dina does not have an eagle at her feet to show that she is symbolizing air.

Les trois grâces by Aristide Maillol

The three Graces in ancient mythology personified beauty, gentleness and friendship. Presumably Dina Vierny was the model for all three of these, since the group is dated 1938, when she was Maillol’s only model.

L’Action enchaînée (The chained action) by Aristide Maillol

L’Action enchaînée is a bronze statue created by Maillol from 1905 to 1908. This is a replica of a statue that was originally made for the town of Puget-Théniers, showing a woman who looks strong and active despite having her hands tied behind her back. The building in the background is the Richelieu wing of the Louvre.

La Baigneuse aux bras levés (The bather with arms raised)

This bronze sculpture from the year 1921 is now in the shadow of some large trees and located between two rows of hedges.

Dina Vierny was not at all pleased with these hedges (“in the style of Louis XIV”), which were added in the 1990s after completion of the Grand Louvre construction projects such as the pyramid and the underground Carrousel shopping center. Originally she had placed the statues on a large lawn between two wings of the Louvre, with ample space around them so they could be seen from all angles, but now “they are playing between the hedges and one finds them by surprise, from closer perspectives. But we’ll have to wait until the rearrangements are completed. I hope simply that the vegetation will be shortened a bit.” (page 166)

Flore by Aristide Maillol (1910)

At first glace I thought this lady must have been some sort of slave, with her hands chained together. But apparently she is just holding a chain of flowers. In the background we can see the Denon wing of the Louvre on the left, the Orsay Museum in the center and the Eiffel Tower on the right.

Monument aux morts de Céret (1922)

This is a bronze copy of Maillol’s stone monument to the fallen soldiers of Céret, in southern France. The lady’s head seems to be a favorite perch for crows. The buildings in the background are from the 19th century, on Rue de Rivoli.

Jeune fille allongée (1921)

This is an unusually thin woman, by Maillol’s standards. Behind her is a group of young people sitting in a circle and talking.

My photos and text in this post are from 2019.

See also: Dina Vierny and the Maillol Museum
and Dina Vierny’s art gallery in Paris.

6 thoughts on “Maillol sculptures in the Tuileries”

  1. Great entry, Don. We’ve passed the statues many times and never researched their stories. Very interesting. Have you visited Banyuls? A lot of Maillol there too . . .

    We’re going to give the Lion’s Gate a try this afternoon. I hope you’re right as it’s always been our favorite entrance.

  2. Don, that was most informative. I’ve always wondered about those statues, thank you.

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