Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed that this paper cut-out is by the hand of Henri Matisse.
In his deceptively simple paper cut-outs, Matisse found that he could use scissors and paper of various hues in order to 'draw with colour', explaining that 'For me, that simplifies matters. Instead of drawing an outline and then adding colour - which means that line and colour modify one another - I can draw directly in colour, and the colour is more precise in that it has not been transposed. The simplification means that the two means of expression can be united so precisely that they become a single means of expression' (Matisse, quoted in J. Guichard-Meili, Matisse Paper Cutouts, London, 1984, p. 54).
From the inception of his Fauve style, and even earlier, Matisse had always shown a deep love and unique understanding of colour and its potential; however, it was only in his cut-outs that he managed to present colour in its purest form.
Papier decoupé was a gift from Henri Matisse to his friend Mary Hutchinson (1889-1977), intended to 'show proof of his skill' as Wanda de Guébriant suggests. Hutchinson, the wife of a prominent barrister, St John Hutchinson, was for many years on the fringes of Bloomsbury and, later, in the circle of Aldous Huxley, she was the mistress of Clive Bell from 1915 to 1927. Bell wrote to Picasso in 1920 asking him to draw her, and it was probably at about this time that she met Matisse, to whom Bell had been introduced in 1908 by Roger Fry. From Hutchinson, the papier decoupé passed by descent to Barbara Ghika, the wife of the artist Nikos Ghika, and from her to the artist John Craxton.