Musée d'Orsay: Carl Milles Beggar Girl

Carl Milles
Beggar Girl

Beggar Girl
Carl Milles (1875-1955)
Beggar Girl
Between 1897 and 1904
H. 30.4; W. 17; D. 18 cm
© ADAGP, Paris © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Beggar Girl

Mendiante [Beggar Girl]

The Swedish sculptor Carl Milles (pronounced "meeless") lived in Paris between 1897 and 1904. Although he had a great admiration for the city, he was struck by the large number of beggars in the streets, their hands outstretched. So he modelled statuettes like this Beggar Girl, which, because of their snapshot quality, have both a documentary value and a humanist strength. He exhibited several of these at the 1899 Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

This young Beggar Girl, who, in the wind and the cold, keeps her baby wrapped up in her left arm while holding out her other hand to passers by, can only inspire pity and provoke a reflection on human destiny. The sculptor had some success with these Naturalist figures, but not enough, however, for the large castings to be commissioned. In 1903, Milles went to Belgium and was struck by how similar his preoccupations were to those of Constantin Meunier.

Millesgården, the Milles museum near Stockholm, is a studio-house with a garden, inspired by classical antiquity, and is well worth a visit.

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