Henri Matisse (French, 18691954)
Oil on canvas; 28 3/4 x 21 3/8 in. (73 x 54.3 cm)
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998 (1999.363.43)
© 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Between December 1916 and the close of 1917, Matisse painted at least twenty-five pictures of an Italian model named Laurette. She also posed with her sister and a woman named Aïcha for some fifteen additional works by the artist. Sometimes Matisse depicted Laurette wide-awake, as in a series of close-up portraits, and at other times she is shown lounging languorously on a sofa. Sometimes she wears the exotic costume or headdress of an odalisque. This painting, however, is different. Here, Laurette, in floppy slippers, without her usual decorative accessories, and undoubtedly nude under the voluminous green robe, appears to rest between sittings. Since there are no indications of the room or the surrounding space, the curvilinear shape of the plush Second Empire armchair envelops Laurette like a fluffy pink cloud upon which she seems to float like an earthy Madonna. Matisse painted these pictures of Laurette in his fourth-floor studio at 19, Quai Saint-Michel in Paris, which was opposite police headquarters on the Île de la Cité across the Seine. As the artist's son Pierre recalled, Laurette was somewhat unconventional and, during breaks from posing, would go to the open window for some air, oblivious to the fact that she was stark naked; at these times, the windows of the police station were filled with gawking men.