A photo-certificate from Marguerite Duthuit dated Paris, 5 February 1981 accompanies this drawing.
In 1921 Henri Matisse took an apartment at 1 Place Charles-Flix, Nice where he began to create what John Elderfield has called his "dream world," imbued with the atmosphere of the East. With furnishings and textiles, Matisse made an exotic environment in which he drew and painted models, including members of his family. They are often shown playing musical instruments or having just played them, and the whole atmosphere is filled with luxuriance and languorous delight. Matisse, as here, often dressed his sitters in sumptuous gowns and situated them in brilliantly lit and extravagant surroundings, as if their musical accomplishments mirrored his search for an ideal world of earthly delights.
Speaking of a comparable work from his Nice period, Matisse recalled, "Everything was fake, absurd, terrific, delicious." (quoted in P. Schneider, Matisse, London, 1984, p. 516). The sense of the theatrical, its hollowness, was what in part drew Matisse to Nice and to these subjects, posed in their pampered insouciance.
In 1921, the year that the present work was drawn, Elie Faure wrote, "Whether Matisse paints a portrait, a still life, a landscape, or nude women dancing, the arabesque is always there, dominating in order that it may direct, master, and give shades or subtlety to the harmony, whose rhythm comes from it, and with which it plays, as a bow draws forth from the string, sonorous waves which it swells and contracts" (E. Faure, "L'Art Moderne, 1921," in J. Flam, op. cit., p. 200).
At this date Matisse developed his technique of working with charcoal and stompe--the rolled paper stump used traditionally to smudge and diffuse line and form. It enabled him to formulate an expansive and delicate space through the subtleties of shaded tones.