Lot 29
  • 29

Henri Matisse

1,400,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
1,805,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Henri Matisse
  • Femme à l'ombrelle verte
  • signed Henri Matisse (lower right)
  • oil on canvasboard


Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the artist on 20th March 1919)

Mancini (acquired from the above on 23rd May 1919)

Georges Renand, Paris (acquired by 1949)

Pierre Berès, Paris (acquired from the above in 1962. Sold: Sotheby’s London, 30th November 1993, lot 13)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner




Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Henri Matisse, 1949, no. 69

Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Chefs-d’œuvre de Matisse, 1958, no. 17 (titled L’ombrelle verte and as dating from 1921)

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Henri Matisse, The Early Years in Nice, 1916-1930, 1986-87, no. 52, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Femme assise au balcon, ombrelle verte, bas violets)


Daniel Marchesseau, Diego Giacometti, Paris 1986, p. 155 (photograph in colour taken in 1978 of Pierre Berès' living room showing this painting above the mantelpiece)

Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Henri Matisse chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1995, vol. II, no. 280, illustrated p. 736

Catalogue Note

Femme à l'ombrelle verte was painted during the early months of 1919 at the Hôtel Méditerranée et de la Côte d’Azur in Nice. Matisse took his first room at the Méditerranée in November 1918 and, returning to Nice each autumn, would continue to reside there for the next three years, deriving inspiration from the Italian-style ceilings, old rococo decor and sunlit interiors. As Jack Cowart writes, describing Matisse’s room there: ‘This hotel would become for Matisse a most fertile, expansive environment… His first room had shuttered, double French doors opening out onto a balcony with a carved or cast balustrade [...]. Models were chosen to pose on the balcony, holding brightly colored red, green, or orange umbrellas. These parasols not only shaded them from the sun but also provided a soft irradiation of colored light that Matisse would capture on canvas’ (J. Cowart, ‘The Place of Silvered Light’, in Henri Matisse, The Early Years in Nice, 1916-1930 (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 24). 

The setting of his rooms in the Hôtel Méditerranée also allowed Matisse to position his models in such a way that he was able to use them to explore a dialogue between interior and exterior spaces. As Melanie Horst writes: ‘On the one hand, Matisse perceived the space – from the horizon line to the interior of his studio – as a whole; on the other, however, he interrupted this spatial continuity with window grilles and balcony railings […]. Thus the visibility of the spatial boundary is emphasised and an interplay between revealing and concealing, between looking at and looking through, is generated’ (M. Horst, in Henri Matisse. Figure, Colour, Space (exhibition catalogue), Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2005-06, p. 188).

This interplay of interior and exterior spaces is reflected in the artist’s decision to place some of his subjects inside the room, whilst others are viewed through the window, seated on the balcony. In these interiors Matisse focuses more specifically on the decorative patterns offered by the richly-ornamented room and the soft play of light coming through the window. However, the open window and the far horizon of the sea are an ever-present reminder of the outside world, made all the more explicit in the works where he positions his subject outside on the balcony (fig. 2). In Femme à l'ombrelle verte Matisse places his model – the young Antoinette Arnoud – on the balcony, narrowing the focus of his gaze to omit all but the briefest references to an interior. This allows the artist to explore the delicate play of sunshine through the columns of the balustrade and the thin fabric of her parasol. This blend of light and shadow combines to form a luminescence that perfectly evokes the brilliant light and languorous atmosphere of this typically Mediterranean scene. 

Both the present work and lot 13 once belonged to the Parisian publisher and antiquarian book dealer Pierre Berès (fig. 1). Having met poets Eluard and Aragon whilst fighting with the French Resistance during the Second World War, Berès subsequently became friends with Picasso and later Matisse, working with them on a number of graphics projects. A discerning collector, he amassed a collection of important works by many of the artists he counted among his friends including Giacometti, Bonnard and Matisse.