Sale: Christie's, London, 6 January 1946, lot 179
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, 22 October 2009, lot 18
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
In L'Atelier de poterie, Tanger, Discart's choice of subject is intriguing; he has essentially painted a painter. His decision to depict his subject in a moment of rapt concentration, conveyed by his furrowed brow and steadied hand, signals the man's earnest devotion to his craft, perhaps not unlike Discart's own. The pottery painter is surrounded by objects of his trade captured in exquisite detail: tankards, dishes, water jugs and buckets; all of which are typical of North Africa. The large platter to the right of the painter with the distinctive vibrant blue, green, and yellow pattern is an example of Fez pottery. In the fifteenth century, skilled Moorish pottery makers fled Spain for Morocco, settling in Fez, Meknes, Safi and Marrakech. Upon arriving they rebuilt their kilns and for the next four hundred years, Moroccan potters, particularly those in Fez, flourished and produced some of the highest quality examples of their trade in the Islamic world. The straw basket on the shelf to the right is a common tagine serving piece, and the item on the left shelf next to the large round dish is an example of Berber ceramics. Other items in the scene appear to come from the Kabylie region in Algeria.
Jean Discart was born in Modena in 1856 and in 1873, at the age of seventeen, he enrolled in a history painting course at the Vienna Academy taught by the German classical painter Anselm Feuerbach. After Feuerbach retired from the Academy, Discart and his fellow students Ludwig Deutsch and Carl Merode applied to study under Leopold Carl Müller, who was made professor of the Academy following Feuerbach. They were refused admittance into Müller's class, which prompted Discart and Deutsch to travel to Paris (though Discart was admitted to Müller's class the next year). Discart's career is an interesting combination of these two influences: his classical training in Vienna under such revered master-painters, and his experiences with his contemporaries in the cosmopolitan Paris art world. He first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1884, but after that there is very little record of the remainder of his career. He painted Orientalist subjects through the 1920s, however, and judging from the inscription 'Tanger' on many of his works, it seems likely that he visited the Moroccan city.
Discart's affection for his subject is stunningly apparent in the painstaking attention to detail in the exquisite L'Atelier de poterie, Tanger. The painterly beauty and masterful handling of composition in the present work firmly positions Discart among the finest painters of this genre.
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