From the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia:
This work has been described as the most important painting in Matisse's Moroccan cycle. Executed in the early part of 1913, it was acquired by the Moscow collector Sergey Shchukin later that year. He wrote to Matisse "I love [the painting] now more than the others and I look at it for no less than an hour at a time." Before us is the epitome of absolute inner peace; the still figures are cut off from the world around, as if they had lost consciousness of their bodily weight. They are grouped around two central elements: the glass aquarium with the goldfish in the foreground and the musical instrument being played in the background. These two objects are the origin of the meditative state which holds the figures in its power. This state of enchantment is perfectly matched by the magic of the expansive space of the turquoise colour and the calm light grey of the figures, set off by patches of warm ochre. The painting evolved slowly. At first it contained more concrete observations of nature and greater variety in colour, but gradually everything superfluous was removed and Matisse used his expressive simplification to capture the Spirit of the East.