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Details & Cataloguing

Najd Collection, Part II

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London

Ludwig Deutsch
1855-1935
AUSTRIAN
THE SCHOLAR
signed and dated  L. Deutsch PARIS 1901 lower left
oil on panel
100 by 71cm., 39¼ by 28in.

Provenance

Sale: Phillips, London, 26 November 1985, lot 101
Mathaf Gallery, London
Purchased from the above

Literature

Caroline Juler, Najd Collection of Orientalist Paintings, London, 1991, p. 48, cited, p. 56, catalogued & illustrated
Martina Haja & Günther Wimmer, Les Orientalistes des écoles allemandes et autrichiennes, Courbevoie, 2000, p. 210, catalogued & illustrated

Catalogue Note

This noble subject may have been inspired by Deutsch's encounters with scholars at Cairo's famous Al-Azhar madrasa (today Al-Azhar University), the crowded courtyard of which he depicted in his Salon entry of 1890. With an expression of intense concentration, the turbaned scholar sits back to reflect on the passage he has just read in his red leather-bound Quran and marks his place in the text with his forefinger. The painting is also a tour de force of detail and technical precision that distinguishes Deutsch's work, aided by the smooth and even surface of the mahogany panel on which it is painted.

The scholar wears a fur-lined black gown over a striped, black silk robe held at the waist by a brocaded sash. His distinguished dress is at once a reflection of his status as a senior scholar and of wealth and prosperity, since only the most expensive black dyes stood up to scrutiny under bright light (most taking on a green or red tinge). Meanwhile, the inlaid marble wall and column, the Syrian gilt drapery on which he sits, the velvet Ottoman cushion cover, the smoking incense burner, and the Persian carpet evoke a sumptuous interior to excite the senses. 

Deutsch was the leading Orientalist painter of the Austrian school, which also included Rudolf Ernst, Arthur von Ferraris, and Rudolf Weisse. He trained at the Vienna Academy in 1872, but settled in Paris in 1878, where he studied with the history painter Jean-Paul Laurens and honed his highly academic style. Deutsch began travelling regularly to Egypt in 1883 and Orientalist subjects dominated his oeuvre from this time on, earning him unprecedented praise.

In 1900, three years after showing an Orientalist composition at the Salon, Deutsch received a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris and, later, the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. The polished surfaces and hallucinatory realism of his paintings were founded on a vast collection of photographs he amassed in Cairo, along with hundreds of props he acquired while abroad that dressed his Paris studio and that are featured in many of his paintings.

Najd Collection, Part II

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London