Jesús Fructuoso Contreras was born in Aguascalientes in North central Mexico. He initially studied drawing, and later his obvious artistic talents led him to move to Mexico City to study at the National School of Fine Arts, at the young age of 14. At the age of 17 he was granted a scholarship by the Mexican Government to study in Europe and so he travelled to Paris in order to further his sculpting career and by 21 had decided that sculpture was to be his medium.
Contreras obtained a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 and the prestigious first-class medal at the same exhibition of 1890. It is likely that he either studied with Alfred Boucher or was a keen follower of his work. This image is clearly reminiscent of Boucher’s model of Pysche, which the sculptor modelled for Barbedienne’s funeral monument at the Pere Lachaise Cemetry and which Boucher himself adapted for a larger group on the same lines as this sculpture. Contreras has however, absorbed the influence of the Art nouveau movement with the flowing, organic lines of this work.
This sculpture, carved from white marble, shows a woman with one arm raised above her head, her eyes are softly closed and her hair is flowing behind her, intermingling with drapery hanging from her arm. The bough of a tree on the ground seems to intertwine with her drapery and her lower body, perhaps drawing influence from the story of Daphne, who turned into a tree in order to escape the unwanted attentions of Apollo.