An exquisite portrait by Henri Matisse depicting Princess Nézy-Hamidé Chawkat, the great granddaughter of the last Sultan of Turkey, Odalisque au fauteuil noir will be on offer at Sotheby’s London sale of Impressionist & Modern Art. The work dated 1942 and estimated at £9-12 million is one of Matisse’s finest paintings from his famed ‘Odalisque’ series – the artist’s depictions of the notorious concubine figure, with which he created one of the most recognisable emblems of eroticism in Modern art.
Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Worldwide, has stated: “Following our highest-ever sale total for our Impressionist & 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 & 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.”
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 appearance. Following a formal request by the artist, the Princess’s grandmother granted permission for the princess to sit for Matisse; as long as she was accompanied by a chaperone. Princess Nézyand became Matisse’s favourite model over the course of two years.
The artist wrote about Odalisque au fauteuil noir in a letter dated 17th January 1942, ‘I have also begun an important canvas of ma petite princesse de rêve’. But when the princess left Nice to be married in 1942 Matisse had to seek a new muse.
The work Odalisque au fauteuil noir reflects Matisse’s interest in Orientalism, which he had first explored in the 1920s; the painting draws on the artist’s interest in 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 the creation of the painting, and had moved into Hôtel Régina, whose grand rooms had become both his home and studio in the south of France.