Yellow Odalisque continues Henri Matisse’s 1920s modernizing of the odalisque, a figure popularized by French painters in Orientalist works of the 1800s. But here there is no confusing Matisse’s model with a Turkish concubine. Hélène Galtzine is instead very clearly presented as a modern European woman. Underneath the Persian robe, with its vibrant stripes of purple and yellow that serve to equalize her form with the picture’s patterned background, she wears a green printed skirt and white blouse, and her hair is cut short in a bob. The small Algerian painted table from the 1800s or early 1900s came from Matisse’s personal collection, as did the French pewter jug from the late 1700s decorated with gadrooning, or convex curves, that holds a bouquet of red, purple, and white anemones.
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