6 June 2008
Sir Matthew Smith (1879-1959)
Nude with mauve drapery
oil on canvas
24 x 32 in. (61 x 81.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1931.
with Lefevre Gallery, London, circa 1947.
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Exhibition catalogue, Homage to Matthew Smith 1879-1959, London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, 1960, no. 2, illustrated.
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Homage to Matthew Smith 1879-1959, February - March 1960, no. 2.
Painted in Smith's Paris studio at 10 Passage Noirot, the present work probably shows Sunita Peerboy in one of her colourful saris. Malcolm Yorke (Matthew Smith His Life and Reputation, London, 1997, pp. 145-46) comments, 'One of Epstein's favourite models was a Kashmiri woman named Sunita Peerboy (or Peerbhoy) who had left her husband and fled to England with her son Enver and sister Anita. She had worked in a circus and sold erotica from a stall at the Wembley International Exhibition of 1924 before the three of them moved into the Epstein household for the next six years. Sunita was fond of alcohol and none too reliable but she and Enver modelled for the sculptor's ethereal Madonna (see lot 143). Smith evidently drew her as early as 1924 and may even have introduced her to Epstein, but his paintings of her both nude and in colourful saris date from 1930 to 1933 and were executed at 10 Passage Noirot. Both artists slept with her though this caused no tensions between them, since no love was involved. Sunita sat for both figures in Smith's The Two Sisters (1931; private collection) and several more nudes where her distinctive colouring, thick midriff and pointed breasts can be recognized. A couple of years later Sunita returned to India and disappeared in mysterious circumstances'.
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