Sun, Nov 30, 2014

Art & Auctions
Famous Matisse work expected to fetch $19m

A famous Matisse painting is expected to fetch close to $19 million when it goes under the hammer at a Sotheby’s sale in London next year.

Henri Matisse’s ‘Odalisque au fauteuil noir’ has a pre-sale estimate of £9 million to £12 million ($14.08 million to $18.77 million) and will be one of the highlights of the Sotheby’s London Impressionist & Modern Art evening sale, which will be held on February 3, 2015.

One of the finest of Matisse’s celebrated Odalisque paintings from the peak of his career, the work has been described by the French painter as an important portrait to the princess of his dreams.

Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Co-Head, Impressionist & Modern Art Worldwide, said: “Following our highest-ever sale total for our Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale in New York, we are delighted to announce a highly desirable highlight of our forthcoming London sale, Henri Matisse’s Odalisque au fauteuil noir. This exquisitely coloured painting is one of the finest of the artist’s celebrated Odalisque paintings to come to the market. 2014 has been an extremely exciting year for the Impressionist and Modern Art market, which Sotheby’s continues to lead for the fourth successive year, and it is with great anticipation that we look to our February 2015 sale.”

An exquisite portrait depicting Princess Nézy-Hamidé Chawkat, the great granddaughter of the last Sultan of Turkey, Odalisque au fauteuil noir (dated 1942) is one of 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 January 17, 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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