Aristide Maillol

Venus with a Necklace

c.1918–28, cast 1930

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Aristide Maillol 1861–1944
Original title
Vénus au collier
Object: 1753 × 610 × 400 mm, 165 kg
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1931

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According to the artist, this sculpture was developed from another life-size nude entitled 'Summer', made in 1910. The model for this 'Venus', however, was a Spanish maid who came to work for Maillol at the end of the First World War. Maillol later recalled that he worked on the piece over a period of several years. A plaster version, complete with necklace, was exhibited in Paris in 1928 and a bronze cast was sold the same year. Named after the goddess of love, this sculpture epitomises Maillol's vision of feminine beauty.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Aristide Maillol 1861-1944

N04576 Vénus au Collier (Venus with a Necklace) c.1918-28

Inscribed 'M' on upper surface of base and 'Alexis Rudier | Fondeur. Paris.' back of base
Bronze, 69 1/8 x 24 x 15 3/4 (175.5 x 61 x 40)
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1931
Prov: CAS (purchased from the artist 1931)
Exh: RSA, Edinburgh, April-September 1935 (16); Acquisitions of the CAS, Tate Gallery, September-October 1946 (91); Open Air Exhibition of Sculpture, Battersea Park, London, May-September 1948 (24, repr.); Sculpture in the Open Air, Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, June-September 1949 (35); CAS: The First Fifty Years 1910-60, Tate Gallery, April-May 1960 (190); Twelve Views of Mankind, MacRobert Centre Art Gallery, Stirling, March-April 1974 (works not numbered, repr.)
Lit: Alfred Dreyfus, 'Ein Besuch bei Maillol' in Kunst und Künstler, XXV, 1926-7, p.85; Judith Cladel, Aristide Maillol: sa Vie - son Oeuvre - ses Idées (Paris 1937), pp.112-14, plaster repr. pl.43; John Rewald, Maillol (Paris 1939), p.165, plaster repr. pl.62; Pierre Camo, Maillol, Mon Ami (Lausanne 1950), pp.68-70, 87; Henri Frère, Conversations de Maillol (Geneva 1956), pp.223, 243-4, 280, 311, 326; Rolf Linnenkamp, Aristide Maillol: erster kritischer Katalog zur Grossplastik (Hamburg 1957), No.14, p.11; Waldemar George and Dina Vierny, Aristide Maillol (London 1965), pp.48, 222, detail of head repr. p.187 in colour; exh. catalogue Modern Painting, Drawing and Sculpture collected by Louise and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass., November 1971-January 1972, pp.459-66, 'Venus without a Necklace' repr. p.463; exh. catalogue Künstlerfreunde um Arthur und Hedy Hahnloser-Bühler: Französische und Schweizer Kunst, 1890 bis 1940, Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, September-November 1973, pp.17, 179, detail repr.
Repr: Cahiers d'Art, 1929, p.471; John Russell, From Sickert to 1948 (London 1948), pl.51

Maillol told Henri Frère that the head of the 'Venus' was made from a Spanish girl named Thérèse who came to him as a maid after the First World War and stayed for four years. Then he added that he spent altogether fifteen years on the 'Venus'. 'But that was because I did not have a very clear idea what I wanted. I started from a drawing, a very broad thing. I wanted to give the statue what there was in this drawing, this grandeur. I did not succeed. So I then made a Venus out of it. But it was not a Venus that I wanted to make ...' However, when Frère asked him later to confirm that it was begun from a drawing, he replied: 'No. The Venus was developed from a figure which I call "Summer". At first it was very successful. It was a magnificent torso, with the head bent forward. I had arranged it with a drapery; this made an incredible effect'. But although Rodin admired it, Maillol continued to work on it and later felt that he had spoilt it.

'Summer', which dates from 1910, is a life-size nude figure with the head tilted in the opposite direction (towards the viewer's left), and with her left arm extended forward and bent at the elbow, and her right arm stretched downwards to the side of the body. The pose of the arms and head is extremely awkward and has none of the fluent grace of the finished 'Venus', but the torso and legs are distinctly similar.

Maillol told John Rewald in 1938 that he executed this work about 1918-33. However, his memory clearly failed him on this point, for the 'Venus' with a necklace was exhibited in plaster at the Salon d'Automne in 1928, and Arthur and Hedy Hahnloser-Bühler are recorded to have bought their bronze cast of it that same year. The necklace may have been added at a relatively late stage, partly to explain the position of the hands.

The following casts made in Maillol's lifetime, some with and some without the necklace, have been traced:

(a) Casts by the lost wax process (cire perdue) by C. Valsuani:

  1. Hahnloser collection, Winterthur, 'Venus with a Necklace' (not numbered).
  2. Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi, 'Venus without a Necklace' (not numbered).
  3. German private collection, 'Venus with a Necklace' (not numbered).
  4. Kunsthaus, Zurich, 'Venus with a Necklace' (not numbered).

(b) Casts by the sand-mould process (fonte au sable) by Alexis Rudier:

  1. Tate Gallery, 'Venus with a Necklace' (not numbered).
  2. St Louis Art Museum, 'Venus with a Necklace' (2/5).
  3. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons, 'Venus with a Necklace' (3/s). (The Musée has removed the necklace).
  4. Kunsthalle, Bremen, 'Venus without a Necklace' (2/5).
  5. Louise and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr. collection, St. Louis, 'Venus without a Necklace' (not numbered).
  6. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 'Venus without a Necklace' (not numbered).

Two further casts over and above this edition have been made since Maillol's death:

  1. A cast of the 'Venus without a Necklace' published by Lucien Maillol for the town of Perpignan and cast by the sand-mould process by Georges Rudier. It belongs to the Musée Hyacinthe Rigaud at Perpignan, but has been placed out of doors on the Place de la Loge.
  2. A cast of the 'Venus without a Necklace' published by Dina Vierny and cast by the sand-mould process by Georges Rudier, to form part of her gift of sculptures by Maillol to stand in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.

According to information received by the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons, in 1934-5 when the cast in their collection was purchased, there were to be altogether ten casts, five cast by Rudier, the five others by a different founder. This would seem to be borne out by the inscriptions '3/5' and (twice) '2/5', though on the other hand there appear to be no less than six casts made in his lifetime by the sand-mould process. Dina Vierny records that Maillol's editions are based on the principle of six bronze copies from each original plaster, and that if he wanted to have more than six copies executed, he would begin by making two plaster casts, one for each of his founders: one for the lost wax process, the other for sand-mould casting. This would suggest that there may also be two further casts made by C. Valsuani by the lost wax process.

Maillol also made a small number of casts of the torso, without arms, and of the head and the beginning of the throat which he published under the title 'Bust of Venus'.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.466-8, reproduced p.466

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