Lot 9
  • 9

Henri Matisse

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Henri Matisse
  • Nu assis, bras sur la tête
  • inscribed with the initials HM, stamped with the foundry mark C. Valsuani, Cire perdue and numbered 6/10
  • bronze 
  • height: 35cm.
  • 13 3/4 in.


Theodor Ahrenberg, Stockholm (acquired from the artist. Sold: Sotheby's, London, Forty-nine Bronzes by Matisse. The Property of Mr & Mrs Theodor Ahrenberg, 7th July 1960, lot 10)

J. Kitching, London (purchased at the above sale)

Sale: Sotheby's, London, 23rd October 1963, lot 78

Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London (purchased at the above sale)

Private Collection, Lausanne (sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 7th November 2006, lot 55)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Maison de la Pensée Française, Henri Matisse, Chapelle, Peinture, Dessins, Sculpture, 1950, no. 76

London, Tate Gallery, The Sculpture of Matisse and three paintings with drawings, 1953, no. 9

Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek; Ottawa, The National Gallery of Canada; Oslo, Kunsternes Hus & Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Henri Matisse, Skulpturer, Malerier, Farveklip, 1953-54, no. 8

Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Modern Utländsk Konst, Ur Svenska Privatsamlingar, 1954, no. 96

Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Henri Matisse, Apollon, Utställning anordnad I samarbete med Medicinska Föreningen, 1957, no. 13

Helsinki, Helsingin Taidehalli & Liège, Maison Liègeoise, Henri Matisse, Apollon, Theodor Ahrenbergin, 1957-58, no. 138

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Henri Matisse, 1959, no. 11

Gothenburg, Könsthallen, Henri Matisse, Ur Theodor Ahrenbergs Samling, 1960, no. 168


Gaston Diehl, Matisse, Paris, 1958, mentioned p. 18

Albert E. Elsen, The Sculpture of Henri Matisse, New York, 1971, no. 69, illustration of the Baltimore Museum of Art cast p. 60 (titled Seated Woman)

Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, The Sculpture of Henri Matisse, London, 1984, illustration of another cast pl. 11

Claude Duthuit, Henri Matisse, Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre sculpté, Paris, 1994, no. 15, illustration of another cast p. 35

Claude Duthuit & Wanda de Guébriant, Henri Matisse, Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre sculpté, Paris, 1997, no. 15, this cast listed p. 36; illustration of another cast p. 37

Catalogue Note

The medium of sculpture provided Matisse with a new way of exploring one of the most important themes of his œuvre, the subject of the human body. The tactile experience of molding the clay with his hands enabled him to feel the form as he created it and to appreciate the sensuality of the figure in the round. Nu assis, bras sur la tête was conceived in 1904 in the years just before the height of Matisse's Fauvist period. In lieu of the wild coloration that emboldened his oils from these years, the expressive power of the sculpture derives from the gestures of the limbs that the artist has molded and twisted into place. Other casts of this work can be found in the Musée Matisse in Nice, the Baltimore Museum of Art and in the Kunstmuseum in Bern.

In his book The Sculpture of Henri Matisse Albert E. Elsen writes of the present work: 'the model's gesture shows that thousands of similar interpretations have not deprived it of instinct and energy. The traditional posture of raising the arms thrust the chest forward and not only liberated the silhouettes of the torso, but extended the figure's height and the vertical movement initiated at the ankles. Matisse never tired of the use of this arrangement of the arms. In the full figure it gave him another set of axes to enrich the body's structure. Even after he had employed the raised arms position sculpturally for the last time in 1950, he would continue to use it in his paper cutouts. Perhaps for the artist it was an emblem of femininity' (A. E. Elsen, op. cit., p. 58). This gesture was evidently important to the artist; he chose to depict a similar sculpture in the foreground of his iconic 1911 painting L'Atelier rouge (fig. 1). 

The first owner of this work was Theodor Ahrenberg (1912-1989). Born in Gothenberg, Sweden into a shipping family, Ahrenberg discovered modern art on his many travels to Europe and following the Second World War began amassing a collection of works by the leading figures of the avant-garde including Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque and Henri Matisse. He came to know Matisse personally and acquired an almost complete set of his bronzes. The collection was exhibited more or less in its entirety at the Tate, London in 1953 and then at the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm in 1954 and 1957. The collection was dispersed in the 1960 sale Forty-Nine Bronzes by Matisse at Sotheby’s, London.