Greek Myth: Queen Pasiphaé
Trouble began on the island of Crete when King Minos refused to sacrifice
a handsome white bull to the sea god Poseidon. To punish Minos, Poseidon
cursed Pasiphaé, Minos' beautiful wife, with a passion for the
bull. Driven mad with desire, Pasiphaé mated with the bull and
gave birth to the half-bull, half-human creature known as the Minotaur.
Rendezvous in Nice
In 1940, the French author Henry de Montherlant posed for a portrait
by Matisse and used the sessions to propose a collaboration. Matisse
admired de Montherlant's dramatic new version of the Pasiphaé
myth and chose this story for the project.
"...Swept up all the way to the stars..."
For each scene, Matisse selected a favorite phrase from de Montherlant's
Pasiphaé and interpreted it in several different ways.
True to his style, the images respond not to the tale's tragedy but
to universal themes of passion, feminine beauty and love. For the 1944
publication, only one image per scene was printed and the alternate
linoleum blocks were stored for a separate edition Matisse hoped to
A wish fulfilled
It was left to the Matisse Estate to publish the remaining linoleum
blocks in a limited edition of 100. Following Matisse's wishes, they
used the ink and paper from the 1944 edition and also authenticated
each image with the estate stamp "HM." The 1981 edition features
new versions of Matisse's most beautiful and famous images, including
The Technique: Linocut
Matisse favored linoleum engraving because it captured the subtle movements
of his hand. He began with a thick block of linoleum and used a knife
or gouge to carve the soft surface. Ink was then applied to the uncarved
sections before being pressed to paper. In the Pasiphaé
linocuts, the black ink creates a timeless setting for the emotions
captured by the simple white lines.