Lot 13
  • 13

Henri Matisse

1,500,000 - 2,500,000 GBP
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  • Henri Matisse
  • signed Henri Matisse and dated 35 (lower right)
  • charcoal on paper
  • 47.8 by 67.5cm.
  • 18 7/8 by 26 1/2 in.


Family of the artist
Private Collection (acquired from the above. Sold: Christie's, New York, 9th May 2000, lot 517)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


London, Hayward Gallery & New York, The Museum of Modern Art, The Sculpture and Drawings of Henri Matisse, 1984-85, no. 78, illustrated in the catalogue
Tokyo, Isetan Museum; Yamaguchi, Prefectural Art Museum; Osaka, Daimaru Museum of Art & Yokohama, Sogo Museum of Art, Henri Matisse, 1987-88, no. 52, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Nu couché de dos and with incorrect measurements)


Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and his Public, New York, 1951, p. 247
John Russell, The World of Matisse, New York, 1969, pp. 134-135
Lydia Delectorskaya, L'apparente facilité, Henri Matisse: Peintures de 1935-1939, Paris, 1986, illustrated p. 59
Pierre Schneider, Matisse, London, 2002, illustrated p. 636 (titled Reclining Nude and with incorrect measurements)


Executed on a thick sheet of white wove paper, not laid down, hinged to the mount on the reverse of the top two corners, floating in the mount. There are artist's pinholes in all four corners, and a very faint small purple stain in the lower left corner. Apart from two very light surface abrasions, this work is in very good original condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the charcoal is stronger and has a more neutral black and grey tonality in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This stunning drawing of a reclining nude is a study for Matisse's famous oil Nu rose (fig. 1), now in the Baltimore Museum of Art. Between 1st May and 30th October 1935, Matisse made several charcoal sketches of his Russian model, Lydia Delectorskaya, as she posed for this grand composition. This was Matisse's first significant project with Lydia, who proved to be a patient sitter and dutiful studio assistant throughout the six-month process. A photograph from around this time shows Lydia herself working on the canvas during one of its many stages of completion (fig. 3). Matisse documented his work's progress from early May until end of October in twenty-two photographs, and his related drawings also allow us an insight into his creative process and show him veering off in different stylistic directions from his evolving oil composition. 

Executed in May, the present work shows the model reclining in a twisted pose, her head turned towards the viewer. The drawing most closely resembles the oil at a relatively early stage in May (fig. 2), before Matisse relaxed his model's pose for the final versions of the painting. As John Elderfield wrote about this work: 'The present sheet is one of the studies related to the first state of the painting, done before Matisse simplified the naturalistic contours of the figure to make them more geometrical and before he eliminated foreshortening and flattened the space by suppressing the diagonal of the limbs. The pose, in modified form, goes back to such early work as the painting Blue Nude (1907, Baltimore Museum of Art)' (J. Elderfield, in The Sculpture and Drawings of Henri Matisse (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 270). Furthermore, the sculptural quality of the figure in this drawing is reminiscent of Matisse's sculpture from 1927, Nu couché II. The relationship of the present drawing with these earlier works shows how Matisse drew from his own personal iconography at later points in his career. 

In her recent biography on Matisse, Hilary Spurling provides the following description of Matisse's process while rendering this image: 'The model remained absolutely still throughout. It was Matisse who manipulated the arms and legs, pushing elements of his relatively simple composition to the furthest limits of distortion, but never losing contact with the reality represented by Lydia posing for him on a blue-and-white checkered coverlet with legs bent and one arm folded behind her head. ("My pose didn't change,' she said; 'it was comfortable and always the same")' (H. Spurling, Matisse the Master, New York, 2005, p. 360). 


Fig. 1, Henri Matisse, Nu rose, 1935, oil on canvas, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore

Fig. 2, An early version of Nu rose, photographed on 10th May 1935

Fig. 3, Lydia Delectorskaya working on Matisse's Nu rose in his studio, 1935