Muse

Posted on June 17, 2012

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Timeless

This is an image of one of the actresses being considered to play Monique Bourgeois in the yet to be produced movie, “Masterpiece”.

The movie will tell the story of Henri Matisse and Monique Bourgeois, the woman who inspired his last and greatest masterpiece, the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence. Matisse will be played by Al Pacino, but I do not think such an obviously attractive woman should be selected to play Monique. Here is a brief account of their beautiful story and my explanation why.

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Monique was 21 when she first met Matisse. He was 72 and recovering from surgery. He had asked for a ‘young and pretty’ night nurse to tend to him. Monique knew she was young, but did not think she was pretty. She had been brought up in a strict family, told that she was ugly by her parents, and taught to believe she was plain and good for nothing.

So Monique tended to Matisse, making him comfortable, taking walks with him and enjoying long conversations in which her wit enchanted him. One day Matisse said to her, “Who said you were ugly? Your parents? What I see is overall volume, expressiveness, a neck like a tower, the splendid mass of your hair, the oval of your face, the expressive gaze. It’s the feeling of being alive. There’s nothing cold about you.”

When her assignment as a nurse ended, Matisse asked Monique to pose for him. She recalled, “I was rather surprised, for I had never been considered a beauty.” He dressed her beautifully and painted her in four oil paintings.

The two were separated when the war began, but in 1946 they were reunited by chance in Vence. Shortly after this reunion and much to the worldly Matisse’s objections, Monique made plans to move to the Chapel of the Rosary and begin life as a Dominican Nun.

They continued to visit each other. When Monique (now Sister Jacques-Marie) showed him a design she had made for a stained-glass window to beautify the chapel, he was inspired to do much more. Within days Matisse took over the chapel and began a four year long project, not only beautifying windows, but everything inside the chapel where his Monique was to live as a Nun.

It was quite controversial in the church at the time, because Matisse had a reputation for nudes and sexy pictures.

I will leave more details of their life and relationship to the books and movies and skip ahead to September 2005. At this time, Sister Jacques-Marie (the girl who once considered herself a plain and ugly nobody) passed away and asked to be buried in Vence, near the Chapel of the Rosary. She was laid to rest beside the chapel in which the famous Henri Matisse had created his greatest masterpiece. A masterpiece inspired by her, his muse.

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So maybe this actress could play the role of Monique. My objection is more a romantic notion I have that Monique may not have actually been someone so obviously beautiful to others. She was however someone seen as completely beautiful by Matisse and his vision of her allowed her also to see herself as beautiful.

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Posted in: Movies, People