Torso of Chained Action
1905, bronze Claude Valsuani
Why is this work so important?
Everything in this sculpture, even its title—L’Action enchaînée—conveys a sense of power and powerlessness. The intensity it exudes lies in what it conveys: the impetuous desire for freedom that cannot be crushed by tyranny.
Georges Clemenceau, at the time the MP for the Var département, commissioned Maillol to execute a public monument in his region. The statue is a homage to Auguste Blanqui, a great nineteenth-century socialist. For that, one might have imagined a man in a frock coat and top hat, as would have been usual at the time. But that would have been to seriously underestimate Maillol’s creative genius! This is only a part of the monumental homage. In the finished work the woman’s body is depicted in its entirety, her hands tied behind her back and vainly trying to free herself from her bonds. But why, in Maillol’s eyes, did this fierce, thrusting allegory evoke Blanqui the revolutionary so well? The sculptor thought then about the fiery spirit of the elderly rebel: Blanqui had been involved in just about every political plot of the previous century. He was nicknamed “L’enfermé”, which means the “the enclosed” or “the locked one,” as he spend more than half his life in prison.
Observe this powerful nude female torso that seems to be twisting itself violently. The subject is a woman but her athletic build is visible. All the tensed muscles in her curved torso can be seen.
Did you know?
In 1905, for Maillol’s contemporaries, this work is a huge scandal. A naked woman as a homage to Blanqui was simply unimaginable. The work was initially installed in the hills above Nice, facing the church of Puget-Théniers, where Blanqui was born. But soon this new conception of a public monument upset people so much that it was moved to a more discreet location.