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La rivière

1939 - 1943

Aristide Maillol

Writhing and twisting, arms tensed as if resisting great pressure, this woman personifies powerfully flowing water. She is close to the ground, hanging over the edge of the plinth: she is caught in the moment, losing control.


  • Plan number: V13
  • Zone: Entanglement
  • Title: La rivière (The river)
  • Creator: Aristide Maillol , Fonderie Alexis Rudier
  • Production date: 1939 - 1943
  • Material: lead
  • Object number: MID.B.029

This fierce vividness contrasts sharply with Aristide Maillol’s earlier works. Not long before making this work, the artist still expressed a strong preference for serenity and calm in sculpture. 

Dina Vierney became the muse of the then 73-year-old artist at the age of 15, and was probably the model for this work. Yet this is not an individual portrait: Maillol created ideal images. With simplified, almost geometric body shapes, he has emphasized harmony and balance.

Maillol drew inspiration from classical Greek sculpture, in which allegories are an important motif. Human figures personify concepts such as virtues, but also natural elements, such as the seasons, a mountain range, or a river. In the first half of the 20th century, Western artists often made a link between impetuous nature and “untamed” women.

French artist Aristide Maillol studied painting, made book illustrations, and designed tapestries. As a sculptor, he started with terracotta. From 1900, he worked in wood, later with stone and bronze as well. He is known for his female nudes in a neoclassical style inspired by the idealized human figures of classical Greek sculpture.

From the same artist

Artwork Image

Aristide Maillol

This woman seems unaware of her surroundings. Lost in thought, she sits still, seemingly unmoved. It is difficult to know what is going on under the surface. Thus, she personifies the calm of a quasi-enclosed sea with almost no tides: the Mediterranean. Her seated pose, harmoniously based on triangles, emphasizes the sculpture’s tranquility.

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