Henri Matisse
Costume for a mandarin in The Song of the Nightingale 1920

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

© Henri Matisse, 1920/ Succession H. Matisse. Reproduced by permission of VISCOPY Ltd, Sydney 1999.


Henri Matisse's costumes for The Song of the Nightingale related to each other and to the backdrops. He deliberately masked the contours of the dancers' bodies beneath large, voluminous, rectangular costumes, painted in bold, slightly oriental patterns. When they moved, the dancers were transformed into a stylised patterns of shape and colour. The yellow satin of this costume, appliquéd with irregularly spaced large gold and black discs, when seen from a distance, looked like a field of yellow sprinkled with large flowers.