A photo-certificate from Wanda de Guébriant dated Paris, 6 November 1996 accompanies this drawing, which is recorded as no. F 126 in the artist's archives.
Graciella was a Guatemalan model who posed for Matisse in early 1940, while he was staying at the Hôtel Régina in Nice. In the artist's diary entry for 3 April he wrote, "Dessiné Gracielle et tulipes jaunes, T 25F." Later that month, Matisse went to Paris for a short visit to finalize his separation from Madame Matisse and to prepare for a month-long trip to Brazil. However, as the war suddenly escalated he was obliged to change his plans. He sheltered in Bordeaux and could not return to Nice until August. This may be the reason that the present canvas was drawn but remained unpainted.
Among the works for which Graciella posed are Robe de tulle noir, anémones (March 1940), and Graciella, robe blanche, culotte rouge, dahlias rouges (September 1940), as well as preparatory drawings for these, and the present, works. The drawings for the September oil closely resemble the composition of the present work, with the exception that the vase of tulips is replaced by a tobacco can filled with dahlias. It would appear that upon his return to Nice, Matisse resumed his exploration of the formal ideas he was working on before his trip to Paris.
The African stool appears in most of the paintings of Graciella from this year. During his travels Matisse often collected exotic furnishings and accoutrements to adorn his studio. These objects -- painted vases, Persian rugs, Moorish screens and octagonal tables, and fanciful textiles, to name a few -- provided the artist with elaborately decorated surfaces whose bright, two-dimensional patterns he could manipulate into illusionistic plays with his three-dimensional still-lifes. Many of these furnishings, as the stool in the present drawing, also form structural counterpoints within the composition.