One Of The Finest of Matisse’s Celebrated ‘Odalisque’ Paintings

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
One Of The Finest of Matisse’s Celebrated ‘Odalisque’ Paintings

Described by Henri Matisse as an Important portrait of the Princess of his Dreams: SOTHEBY’S TO OFFER ‘ODALISQUE AU FAUTEUIL NOIR’, EST. £9-12m One Of The Finest of Matisse’s Celebrated ‘Odalisque’ Paintings From the Peak of the Artist’s Career

One Of The Finest of Matisse’s Celebrated ‘Odalisque’ Paintings

An exquisite portrait depicting Princess Nézy-Hamidé Chawkat, the great granddaughter of the last Sultan of Turkey, Odalisque au fauteuil noir (dated 1942 and estimated at £9-12m) is one of Henri Matisse’s finest paintings from his famed ‘Odalisque’ series, his depictions of the notorious concubine figure, with which he created one of the most recognisable emblems of eroticism in Modern art. 

Princess Nézy, as she was known, had moved to Nice to live with her grandmother after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic and was spotted in the street by Matisse in 1940, who was drawn to her striking dark looks. Following a formal request, the Princess’s grandmother granted permission for the princess to sit for Matisse – accompanied by a chaperone – and over the course of almost two years she became his favourite model. Writing about Odalisque au fauteuil noir in a letter dated 17th January 1942, Matisse wrote, 'I have also begun an important canvas of ma petite princesse de rêve. It was only when the princess left Nice to be married in 1942 that Matisse sought a new muse. 

A dazzling composition of pattern and colour, Odalisque au fauteuil noir reflects Matisse’s interest in Orientalism, which he had first explored in the 1920s and drew on his attraction to the vibrant colours, fabric and patterns that were so evocative of the Orient. Matisse had been living in Nice with his assistant Lydia Delectorskaya at the time of painting this work and had moved into Hôtel Régina, whose grand rooms had become both his home and studio in the south of France. Amidst the exotic splendours of tropical plants, cacti and the incessant stream of bird-song issuing from his aviary, Matisse executed a series of brilliantly coloured paintings and sensuous drawings of women and still-lifes which were to be his final great accomplishments before he devoted himself to the cut-outs.

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Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

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