With flushed cheeks and closed eyes, Bonnard’s companion, Marthe, is shown lying naked on a bedspread. Yet the pleasurable moment is overshadowed, for is that not a mask-like face staring at the woman from within the strange whitish formation in the upper right of the painting? Bonnard makes use of such enigmatic imagery in many of his works and it often triggers a sense of unease. The Post-Impressionist was long considered a painter of carefree joie de vivre until the dark side of his art emerged from beneath the tranquil surfaces.
Never had there been a more valuable single donation: in 1988 the couple Karl and Sophie Binding, both born in Frankfurt, gave the Städelscher Museums-Verein in excess of one million Deutsche Mark. Alfred Mauritz, president at the time, recalls: “It was a pleasant morning; I showed them the most famous works in the Städel […]. Then we visited their eminent family tomb at the main cemetery.” Afterwards they told me “that they would like to donate a good million out of reverence to their home town and the Städel.” Bonnard’s painting was acquired with this money.