This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Marguerite Duthuit dated Paris le 27.
Lydia en blouse roumaine belongs to an extremely elegant series of pen and ink drawings and paintings of models wearing decorative Persian and Romanian costumes. Matisse began this series in the winter of 1935 in Nice at his studio at place Charles-Félix and exhibited several of the drawings at the Leicester Galleries in London in January 1936. Such was Matisse's satisfaction with the drawings that thirty-five of these sheets, including the present work, were reproduced in a special issue of Cahiers d'Art in the same year.
The model, Lydia Delectorskaya, who included this drawing in her book Henri Matisse, Paintings from 1935-1939 (op. cit.), was originally hired in 1934 as a companion to the ailing Mme Matisse but began to pose for the artist in February 1935. Matisse drew and painted Lydia in a variety of different poses, costumes and settings in a sequence of themes and variations that gained in mystery and intensity as it unfolded.
Matisse's interest in exotic costume had first emerged in the 1920s and the present work shows his continuing fascination with decorative designs. In a letter describing his 1940 painting Le rêve (private collection), Matisse mentioned his fascination with the intricate embroidery and rich colours of a Romanian blouse...'which must have belonged to a princess' (Matisse L'oeuvre gravé, Paris, 1970, p. 93). The elaborate decoration of Lydia en blouse roumaine is pefectly in harmony with the virtuoso handling of the pen found in this large and complex work.