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 Darricarriére(born 1901),
a young woman skilled in the arts of ballet,
piano,violin and painting who lived near
In this 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 hangins,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 colour
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 the Matisse's Nice period is central
not only to his paintings,but also to his
sculptures,drawings and prints.