In 1944, Henri Matisse illustrated Henri de Montherlant's contemporary retelling of Pasiphae, Chant de Minos. Matisse was inspired by the tale of the Minoan bull and channeled his energy into capturing it's universal themes of love, beauty and passion. Matisse used linoleum for this project. He liked this soft, malleable material because it captured the subtle movements of his hand.
For each scene, Matisse chose a favorite phrase from de Montherlant's Pasiphaé and interpreted it in several different ways. For the 1944 publication, only one image per scene was printed. The alternate linoleum blocks, however, were stored for possible later edition. These prints appear in the 1981 edition, which was printed years after Matisse's death under the supervision of his estate.
The original 1944 edition was published by Martin Fabiani. It was printed by Fequet et Baudier in Paris, in an edition size of 250, with 200 printed on velin d'Arches.