Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
The present work depicts a young woman leisurely entranced in reading a book while seated comfortably at a table. This exquisitely rendered work comes from a series executed in the late teens and early 1920s in which Matisse depicted women in interior settings participating in personal pursuits, such as reading, playing the piano or simply gazing out a window with detached aloofness. The strong sense of solitude and tranquility lend an intimacy to these works--rather than the highly ornamental and controlled portraits that Matisse had been executing in his studio, these portraits appear more voyeuristic and informal, as though the artist had quietly set up an easel in the woman's sitting room and captured her in a moment of undisturbed quietude. Melanie Horst has observed:
At this time Matisse favored 'more natural' models whom he introduced into his images as explicitly contemporary figures--with bobbed hair, short dresses, and casual poses--who no longer embodied the feminine ideal. The articulation of figure and space meant that the interior lost its original significance as shelter and realm of the private (in Henri Matisse: Figure, Color, Space, exh. cat., Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, 2005-2006, p. 188).