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This is one of a series of four pictures, all the same size, painted in the spring of 1936. In the first the woman's hands meet in the centre of the picture and the entire lower leg is depicted. This painting, the second in the series, shows Matisse concerned to relate the figure to the edges of the picture: her body fills the space, and the position of her arms, in particular, appears to emphasise the shape of the canvas. The floral patterning of the woman's gown and the exotic plant behind her serve as quiet reminders of the theme of the harem girl, or odalisque, which was central to Matisse's work.

September 2004