Alphonse Mucha
Woman with Lilies

Woman with Lilies
Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), Auguste Seysses (1862-1946)
Woman with Lilies
Circa 1901-1902
Bronze statuette
H. 79; L 20.5; D. 17.5
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt


Woman with Lilies
Woman with Lilies
Woman with Lilies
Woman with Lilies
Woman with Lilies

Femme aux lys [Woman with Lilies]


Born in Toulouse in 1862, Auguste Seysses trained with Falguière, then led a praiseworthy career marked by various awards in the Salons.
Mucha called on Seysses about 1900-1901, or more broadly between 1896 and 1902. At the time he needed an assistant capable of slipping into his style in order to fill several commissions. Mucha was not really a sculptor and one might wonder if he even knew how to model.

So, is Woman with Lilies more of a Seysses than a Mucha? The sculpture exhibits many striking similarities with Mucha's works: a poster in 1896 showing Sarah Bernhardt in La Princesse lointaine by Edmond Rostand, standing with a crown of lilies in her hair; four allegories of flowers in 1897, published as lithographs and postcards, including The Lily, in which a woman stands in a field dotted with lilies, wearing a crown of lilies and holding two stems of the same flower; lastly, the poster Lygie, in 1901, which shows a young woman crowned with lilies, holding a bunch of flowers and a long veil to her breast.
On the contrary, in the very pronounced thrust of the hip in Woman with Lilies, we do not see Seysses' conventional style, such as it is seen in the bronze statuette that he showed at the Salon des Artistes français in 1899. Mucha, on the other hand, loved exaggerated curves and sophisticated poses.
Moreover, Jiri Much, the artist's son, found in his father's papers a photograph related to Woman with Lilies: it shows a female model standing naked, with branches in her arms and flowers on her head. In a letter dated 4 February 1969 enclosed with this photograph, Jiri Mucha wrote: "He [Mucha] may have sketched the overall idea and let Seysses finish it. Or perhaps he started work on it, mainly on the face and hands, and left the rest to Seysses."

Woman with Lilies is thus one of many examples of the collaboration between Mucha and Seysses. Whatever the contribution of each man may have been, Seysses' collaboration with the great Czech artist lifted him above his academic creations and so saved him from oblivion.


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