|Detail, Henri Matisse, Les Marocains (The Moroccans), 1912-16, the Museum of Modern Art.|
The new MoMA iPhone App has an audio guide to the Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-17 exhibition that discusses The Moroccans. Go to the Tours tab > Special Exhibitions > Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-17 > The Moroccans (South Gallery). I was surprised to learn that what I see as Moroccans praying (see photo above), Matisse himself insisted is melons and leaves. From the audio tour, an unidentified voice that sounds like John Elderfield, the co-curator, says: I know some people have thought that what Matisse says are melons and leaves are in fact the Moroccans, but Matisse is insistent that they are not.
I should have known that an Art Historian of the caliber of John Elderfield would not have missed what I thought was such an obvious image. Nevertheless, this is the first time in any of the literature that I researched on the painting (including this exhibition catalog) that any mention is made that Matisse himself was insistent it’s melons and leaves and not Moroccans praying. I still don’t buy it!
It’s a useful (and free) app, btw. Here a description from the App Store:
Use the MoMA App to find out about current exhibitions, plan a visit, browse or search tens of thousands of works in the collection, take multimedia tours, or learn about artists and art terms. Take a photo through MoMA Snaps and send it to a friend, or choose your playlist to create a soundtrack for your MoMA visit.