Christie's London Impressionist and Modern Art Sale to Be Led by Matisse's Odalisque Painting

Female figures have been one of the oldest and most commonly depicted motifs in paintings. While some of these women are the artists lovers, others simply play an important role in the artists' oeuvres. The upcoming Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale will be led by Henri Matisse's (1869-1954) painting of one of his two favourite models. Estimated at £5m - 8m (US$6.3m- 10.1m), this odalisque painting is amongst the most rigorously designed works by the Fauvism movement leader. 

Henri Matisse. Le collier d’ambre (1937)

Matisse and one of his female models

Matisse often employed female models as the subject of his paintings. Le collier d’ambre depicts Hélène, Princess Galitzine, clad in a Persian kaftan, blouse and sash, each worked with an ornate needlework filigree. Born in 1912 in Saratov Russia, Hélène Galitzine was an oval-faced, wavy-haired brunette. She was introduced to Matisse by her friend Lydia Delectorskaya who was a Russian refugee. 

Lydia Delectorskaya photographed by Matisse

Lydia helped as a studio assistant while Matisse was working on the Barnes mural, and was hired in 1934 to look after the artist's ailing wife Amélie. She soon became indispensable in the studio, and began to pose as Matisse's favourite model. She was featured in Matisse's most important painting of 1937, La grande robe bleue et mimosas

Henri Matisse. La grande robe bleue et mimosas (1937)

Hélène photographed by Matisse

In late 1935, Lydia introduced Hélène to Matisse and she immediately intrigued Matisse as a visual complement to Lydia's fair features. Both then served as the artist's preferred models until 1939. Hélène posed for a series of odalisque paintings Matisse created during January and February 1937. An example is Robe rouge et tulipes violettes which depicts Hélène full-figure and seated. She also appears together with Lydia, in Le chant, the mantelpiece decoration that Matisse executed on commission for Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, in 1938. 

Henri Matisse. Robe rouge et tulipes violettes (1937)

Henri Matisse. Le chant (1938)

Completed in Nice on 21 March 1937, Le collier d’ambre is one of the marvellous paintings that Matisse created during that banner year as he reinvigorated his art, going back to the very fundamentals he had discovered for himself over the course of previous decades. The Fauve artist painted Hélène in her most colourful and exotic attire, fully intergrating into the larger ensemble of decorative elements. Although she was "favoured" by Matisse for no nore than four years, she is in the artist's most "modern" odalisques of the mid and late 1930s as an epitome of the theme femme-fleur. 

Close-up of Le collier d’ambre

Other than Le collier d’ambre by Matisse, works by Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger will also be the highlights of the sale. The top three lots are listed below. 

Top three lots

Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Le collier d’ambre

Lot no.: 5
Created in: 1937
Size: 61.7 x 45.4 cm

  • Paul Rosenberg & Co., Paris & Bordeaux, by 1937. 
  • Seized from the National Bank of Commerce and Industry, Libourne, on 28 April 1941.
  • Transferred by order of the Devisenschutzkommando to the Jeu de Paume, Paris, on 5 September 1941.
  • Included in Exchange #18 between the Einstatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg and Gustav Rochlitz, on 21 May 1942.
  • Sold by Gustav Rochlitz to Isidor Rosner, Paris.
  • M. Nicolas Karjensky, Galerie d’Art Cardo, by whom acquired in 1942.
  • M. Albert Dauré, Perpignan, by whom acquired from the above, until at least 1962.
  • Anonymous sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 1 November 1978, lot 50A. 
  • Lefevre Fine Art, London (no. 8585), by whom acquired from the above.
  • Marvin M. Mitchelson, Los Angeles. 
  • Private collection, by 1982.
  • The heirs of Paul Rosenberg.

Estimate: £5,000,000 - 8,000,000 (US$6,310,000 - 10,096,000)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Homme et femme nus

Lot no.: 6
Created in: 1968
Size: 162 x 129.8 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris (Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler), Paris (no. 012899).
  • Pace Gallery, New York (no. 4095). 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, in 1973.

Estimate: £10,000,000 - 15,000,000 (US$12,620,000 - 18,930,000)

Fernand Léger (1881-1955). Femme dans un fauteuil

Lot no.: 8
Created in: 1913
Size: 81 x 100 cm

  • Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris. 
  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris. 
  • Louis Carré Gallery, New York. 
  • Saidenberg Gallery, New York. 
  • Sidney Janis Gallery, New York (no. 8857). 
  • Richard Feigen Gallery, New York (no. 15430-D).
  • Private collection, France. 
  • Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no. 7831), by whom acquired from the above, on 29 June 1973. 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, in March 1974.

Estimate on request. 


Auction details

Auction house: Christie's London
Sale: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
Viewing: 13 June 2019|10am - 7pm
14 June 2019|9am - 4:30pm
15 June 2019| 12pm - 5pm
16 June 2019|12pm - 5pm
17 June 2019|9am - 4pm
18 June 2019| 9am - 3pm
Sale date: 18 June 2019|7pm