Odalisques were the most popular subject of Matisse's Nice period, during the 1920s. They appear in diverse poses in innumerable canvases: reclining, lounging, seated, or standing, frequently with their arms raised or folded behind the head. Dressed or semi-dressed in exotic attire, they are placed against a decorative background of richly patterned fabrics and oriental rugs and surrounded by oriental accoutrements. Matisse's primary model for these depictions, from 1920 to 1927, was Henriette Darricarrière (born 1901), a young woman skilled in the arts of ballet, piano, violin, and painting who lived near Matisse's studio.
In his third-floor apartment at 1, Place Charles-Félix, Matisse arranged an "Oriental" alcove, equipped with a low couch, mirrors, decorative screens, and profusely patterned wall hangings, creating an atmosphere of reverie and exoticism reminiscent of the Moorish interiors he had seen in Morocco. The model's sculpturesque body, languorously stretching on the couch, exudes sensuality and carnality, enhanced by the warm rosy red color scheme. The mood of "luxe, calme et volupté" is clearly palpable. Yet, contemplating the work, one gets the impression that the artist somehow distanced himself from the erotic content of the picture while leaving the excitement of recognition to the viewer. Despite their attempt at authenticity, the paintings appear carefully staged and full of theatricality. The theme of odalisques during Matisse's Nice period is central not only to his paintings, but also to his sculptures, drawings, and prints.
Inscription: Signed (lower right): Henri Matisse
the artist (until d. 1954); his widow, Amélie Matisse (1954–55; sold in September 1955, for $125,000, through Pierre Matisse to Gelman); Jacques and Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1955–his d. 1986); Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1986–d. 1998; her bequest to MMA)
Pittsburgh. Carnegie Institute. "Thirtieth Annual International Exhibition of Paintings," October 15–December 6, 1931, no. 198 (as "Odalisque: Harmony in Red").
Paris. Maison de la Pensée Française. "Henri Matisse: Chapelle, peinture, dessins, sculptures," July 5–September 24, 1950, no. 48 (as "Odalisque rouge," 1928).
Knokke-le-Zoute. Grande salle des expositions de "La Réserve". "Matisse," July 12–August 31, 1952, no. 28 (as "Odalisque," 1926, lent by a private collection, Paris).
Paris. Grand Palais. "Henri Matisse: Exposition du centenaire," April 21–September 21, 1970, no. 174 (as "Odalisque, harmonie rouge," 1926, lent by M. et Mme J. Gelman, Mexico).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," December 12, 1989–April 1, 1990, unnumbered cat. (p. 176).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," April 19–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "De Matisse à Picasso: Collection Jacques et Natasha Gelman," June 18–November 1, 1994, unnumbered cat. (p. 200).
G. J. Gros. "Henri Matisse." Cahiers d'art 2, nos. 7–8 (1927), ill. p. 273, dates it 1927.
[Louis] Aragon. Apologie du luxe. Geneva, 1946, unpaginated, ill. (color), calls it "Odalisque rouge" and dates it 1928.
Lionello Venturi. Pittura Contemporanea. Milan, , pl. 8, calls it "Odalisca distesa" and locates it in the collection of Pierre Matisse, New York.
Maurice Raynal et al. History of Modern Painting. Vol. 2, Matisse, Munch, Rouault: Fauvism, Expressionism. Geneva, 1950, ill. p. 54 (color), calls it "Red Odalisque," dates it 1928, and locates it in a private collection, Paris.
Giuseppe Marchiori. Matisse. New York, , colorpl. 91, calls it "Red Odalisque" and dates it 1928.
Jean Guichard-Meili. "Les Odalisques." XXe siècle: Hommage à Henri Matisse (1970), ill. p. 68 (color), calls it "Odalisque sur fond rouge au vase d'iris" and dates it 1928.
Massimo Carrà. L'opera di Matisse dalla rivolta 'fauve' all'intimismo, 1904–1928. Milan, 1971, p. 104, no. 438, ill. and colorpl. LXI, dates it 1926.
Pierre Schneider inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 26–27, notes that this was the first Matisse acquired by the Gelmans.
Sabine Rewald inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 176–77, 305, ill. (color and bw), dates it about 1926–27, among a group of six small-scale odalisques painted in Matisse's third-floor apartment at 1, Place Charles-Félix in Nice; identifies the model as Henriette.
William S. Lieberman inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, p. 2, fig. 3 (color, installation photo).
Sophie Monneret. Matisse. Paris, 1994, p. 115, no. 470, ill., calls it "Odalisque, harmonie rouge" and dates it 1926.
Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville. Matisse: Henri Matisse chez Bernheim-Jeune. Paris, 1995, vol. 2, pp. 1278–79, no. 678, ill., call it "Femme couchée, bracelets aux chevilles" and date it 1927; note that it was photographed by Bernheim-Jeune in October 1927.
Pierre Schneider. Matisse. Rev. ed. (English ed., 1984). Paris, 2002, p. 527, calls it "Odalisque, harmonie rouge" and dates it 1926; lists it among paintings of odalisques influenced by Michelangelo's figure "Night" on the Medici tomb.