Portrait of an Indian Lady, painted circa 1933, most likely shows Matthew Smith's model, Sunita. Smith's fellow artist and friend, Sir Jacob Epstein, met the Kashmiri woman in 1924 at the British Empire Exhibition, where she was running a stall with her sister, Anita. Epstein invited her, her sister and her son to live with him, which they did from 1925 until 1931 in Guildford Street, Holborn.
Sunita, whose real name was Amina Peerbhoy, was one of Matthew Smith's most important models during the late 1920s and early 1930s. She was six feet tall and Epstein described her as having a 'melancholy gravity' (see A. Keene, exhibition catalogue, The Two Mr Smiths The Life and Work of Matthew Smith, London, Barbican Centre, 1995, p. 53). Smith painted Sunita on many occasions, and both of the figures in Two Sisters, 1931 (private collection) are thought to be modelled by her. The nature of her relationship with Smith is unknown, but the pictures of her, as in the present lot, express a strong sensuality. The rich green, blue and red which depict the clothing and drapery reinforce this.