Jerry Saltz wants to talk about the troubling Balthus work that appeared at Pierre Matisse’s gallery in a 1977 show but has never been shown in public since. Saltz describes the work’s position in the Balthus canon: “in this one work, Balthus broke through his overweening coyness, predictability, and button-pushing theatricality, depicting a truly mysterious, open-ended picture of our strange, strange loves.”
Right after the 1977 exhibition, Pierre Matisse offered to donate this work to the Museum of Modern Art, and it was even delivered to MoMA. There it sat, stored, until 1982, when Blanchette Rockefeller, the museum’s president and a huge donor and fund-raiser, saw it and demanded that MoMA refuse the gift. It went back to Matisse’s gallery, where it was sold (to Mike Nichols), then resold again and again, ending up with the Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos. He, according to Balthus’s biographer, kept it in “an elaborately paneled bedroom, furnished like rooms at Versailles … [next to] a king-size container of Preparation H.” He died in 1996, and the painting remains with his heirs.
Saltz on the Painting the Metropolitan Museum of Art Won’t Show You (New York Magazine)