Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1935) Calling the Faithful

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Lot 29*
Ludwig Deutsch
(Austrian, 1855-1935)
Calling the Faithful

Sold for £ 742,750 (US$ 1,001,878) inc. premium
Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1935)
Calling the Faithful
signed and dated 'L. Deutsch Paris 1893' (lower right)
oil on panel
49.5 x 31.7cm (19 1/2 x 12 1/2in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Irving Putnam Rexford (1884-1955).
    Olive Edna May Carson Rexford (1888-1977).
    Thence by family descent.
    Private collection, Canada.


    In 1893, the Société des Peintres Orientalistes Français was created in Paris to reinvigorate a genre that had begun to stale after half a century of dominating the European art world. Many of the giants of Orientalism had passed away or become interested in subjects beyond the Middle East, while the most influential artist in the field, Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), was now focusing almost exclusively on sculpture, often with classical themes. There were some Orientalist painters, however, who were still captivated by the region, and whose works proved that Orientalism had something left to give. Ludwig Deutsch was one of them, and his pictures from the 1890s were among the finest of his career, with themes that would become the most recognisable and coveted in Orientalist art. His meticulously painted images of Arab men at prayer or, as here, silhouetted or placed just in front of the doorway of an Egyptian religious school or mosque, were particularly successful, finding ready buyers in Paris, London, New York, and Cairo - markets that continue to embrace Deutsch's works today.
     
    In the present painting, completed just one year after winning a gold medal at the 1892 Paris Salon, Deutsch demonstrates the power of the art he created during these pivotal years. Specific yet iconic, topical yet timeless, the subject and site of Calling the Faithful reappear often in Deutsch's oeuvre, like stills from a sweeping cinematic series. The setting, in fact, was a favourite of the artist, and was likely visited in person during one of his many trips abroad (see fig 1). The distinctive bronze medallions adorning the wooden doors of the late 14th century Fatimid Mosque of al-Barquq, located in Cairo's Al-Moez Street, had been appreciated by scores of other artists as well, notably Pascal Xavier Coste (1787-1879) and Owen Jones (1809-1874). Jones reproduced similar medallions, decorative details, and architectural elements in his epic The Grammar of Ornament, published in London in 1856 and frequently used by Deutsch as an aide memoire for his Orientalist compositions. Deutsch's extensive collection of Orientalist photographs served much the same purpose. The jewel-like tones and miniaturists' technique, however, as well as the creative reconfiguration of historically accurate parts, were Deutsch's own, unique contribution to the field. 

    The male figure in the composition, clad in a red striped qumbaz and a white turban, holds his index finger to his left ear.  This gesture – performed during the call of Adhan, or invitation to pray - allowed him to project his voice with the appropriate control, modulation, and force, while also protecting his hearing. His outer robes and scarf feature metallic gold threads, suggesting that they may have been woven in the nearby village of Kerdassa, famous for its luxurious striped textiles. Such ethnographic touches were typical of Deutsch, and contributed to the astonishing realism of his art. Ironically, given this level of precision and clarity, the details of Deutsch's own life remain obscure, with only the most basic biographical information being known. It is left to his pictures to reveal who he encountered during his wide-ranging travels, what intrigued him about Egypt specifically, how he chose to paint it, and why. 

    We are grateful to Emily M. Weeks, Ph.D. for writing the catalogue note. The painting will be included in Dr. Weeks's concise catalogue of Deutsch's works, currently in progress.
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Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1935) Calling the Faithful
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