La Vierge à l'Enfant is a full-scale preparatory sketch for the ceramic of the presbytery of the Chapel of Vence, realised on commission by Matisse in 1948. Elderly and very ill, the artist devoted himself to the project until 1951, designing not only the decoration of the windows and walls, but also the chasubles, pyxes, and crucifix. As period photographs show this drawing was affixed to the wall of the artist’s studio and residence at the Hotel Regina in Nice in 1950. Traces still demonstrate the location of the work: to the right of the Virgin there are signs left by the door and the fuse box in the studio.
The chapel was blessed on 25 June 1951, and on this occasion Matisse wrote to the bishop of Nice: “Excellency, I humbly present to you the Chapel of the Rosary of the Dominicans of Vence. … It took four years of exclusive and assiduous work, and it is the result of all my life’s work. In spite of all its imperfections, I consider it to be my masterpiece…”.