Maillol, Torso du Printemps

At the D’Orsey, I found a quiet corner bench about 3:30 behind this torso. I drew her, meditatively, for my time of day. She really was lovely, and when I went round to read the credits, I laughed.

Maillol again. Maybe the second time I’ve met and fallen in love with this young lady.

It is certainly beautifully done. But oddly? I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the piece: headless, armless. Just a young woman’s body. Nostalgically it looks back, a older man’s metaphorical view of Spring, a man’s view of a woman’s body, just the body stripped of her face, her personality as a woman, but as a body, being fresh, alive, green, potent, potential, pleasure, sensual, life.

A very testosterone view? Wy do I need to apologize for seeing things this way?

Of the period, it was acceptable as metaphor to strip away the face and hands. What of the heads (busts) alone though? Was it a convention just to work on the parts and assemble the whole later? Is this a remnant of that process? Or is the torso the intended finish? How much needs to be done to deliver the idea? No more than necessary, then it becomes about something else.

For us today, these headless armless torsos are unacceptable. For the most part we see – or want to see or insist that – the whole person, and not objectified as a set of attractive parts. Different cultures have different ideas, different times have different ideas. And I can see how she can be an example of art from a patriarchy.

As such, headless, armless, she becomes the abstract idea, fetishized as it is. To add a head and face, it becomes a portrait, and thence not about the idea.

But this merely justifies her state as an object of art.

My first attraction to her is sensual. I can’t articulate the need to touch and feel the form. Is this sexual? is this bad? It models and moves in my head, in an imagined space.  Where does this empty space template come from? There is certainly something simply sexual and sensual and heterosexual arising I have to rationalize away. And I struggle to separate out this response.


  1. doug, why do you have to “rationalize away” or “separate out” your response to the work? I don’t understand. Of course you don’t need to “apologize for seeing things this way”. The art moved you and evoked responses. Just enjoy the experience.


  2. Tough question. I think Maillol is using the sexuality, obviously, to represent something else. This may have been a sublimation on his part, or just an expected convention of the times. So the ‘higher idea’ the literary pretense is stripped away, now, out of, away from the context of it’s time, now the work is about our response to it.

    So, on one level, the silliness is gone. The illustration and storytelling is accessible only to the cognoscenti. What we’re left with is a naked girl, with no arms, no head, objectified as a body.

    The post was a bit of stream of thought. I could better have edited it. I do say, “Why do I need to apologize for seeing things this way?”

    Same question you asked, really.

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