Maillol, a painter by training, was a self-taught sculptor who came to sculpture via woodcarving. He made many clay models throughout his career. Like his sculptures, they were preliminary stages of his major works.
This particular work is very similar to the artist’s first large figure, The Mediterranean, which found favour at the Autumn Salon of 1905. These little figurines constitute a repertoire of shapes to which he returned endlessly.
The simplicity of these terracotta statuettes is quite remarkable in the context of the early 20th century. Maillol treats the female body like a relationship of masses in an abstract spatial construction. His statuettes appeal to enthusiasts (including the donor in this instance, Jacques Zoubaloff) and decorative arts dealers, principally Ambroise Vollard, who produced bronze versions of some of them.