Maternity was modelled in the year that Bourdelle began work as a praticien in the studio of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), helping to execute the marble versions of the master's work. The influence of Rodin, although not of his smooth marbles is apparent in the animated surface modelling of Maternity, combined with a quiet, almost introspective mood that is present in much of Bourdelle's work. The identity of the mother and child depicted in the sculpture remains unknown.
A second version of Maternity with an enlarged base, taking the total height of the sculpture to 63 cm, also exists. Each version has been cast in bronze in an unnumbered edition of eight and two artist's proofs. Two casts in terracotta, 53 cm in height, have also been cast from the smaller version, as well as two masks in bronze representing the face of the mother. The larger version was editioned posthumously.1
The example of Maternity in the Gallery's collection is a particularly fine cast. Custom stamps on an exhibition label inside the base confirm that this is a lifetime cast dated to before 1914 and possibly the first cast in the edition for this reason.2 Another cast from this edition is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Puerto-Rico.
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.82.
- Madame Rhodia Dufet Bourdelle, correspondence with the Gallery, 17 June 1986.
- The custom stamps for Prague and Strasburg which are stamped over an exhibition label for 'Exposition d'Art Français', Société des Amis des Arts de Strasbourg, bear imperial insignia abandoned in 1918-19, and the probability of Bourdelle sending this work to an exhibition in these cities after the start of hostilities in 1914 is remote. The logical explanation for the appearance of the Prague customs stamp is that this work was included in Bourdelle's exhibition at Manes XXVIII Vystava, Prague, in 1909. Another inscription in pen and ink on a label inside the cast refers to Bourdelle in the familiar present tense: 'Emile / 16 Impasse du Maine, Paris / Maternité / bronze cire perdue du Fondeur Hebrard / Deux mille cinq cents francs'.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010