Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1935) The Woodworker

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Ludwig Deutsch
(Austrian, 1855-1935)
The Woodworker

£ 40,000 - 60,000
US$ 56,000 - 84,000
Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1935)
The Woodworker
signed and dated 'L. Deutsch 1884' (upper right)
oil on panel
40.8 x 28.6cm (16 1/16 x 11 1/4in).


  • Provenance
    Williams & Sons, London.
    Private collection, UK.
    Thence by descent.

    The present lot is an important subgenre within Deutsch's art – that of the connoisseur or Arab artisan, workman, or shopkeeper admiring an array of local handicrafts. Deutsch acquired hundreds of decorative objets when abroad, and these souvenirs of travel furnished both his Paris studio at 11 rue Navarin and the Orientalist pictures he produced until his death in 1935. It is also known that the artist frequented the photography studio of G. Lékégian in Cairo. Deutsch's interest in these items, and the element of personalisation, makes it hard not to imagine that the figure in the present lot is a surrogate for the artist himself, contemplating the next treasure to add to his carefully curated collection.

    The man may be identified as a woodworker, due to the particular type of chisel he holds, and the mother-of-pearl wooden inlaid drawer. His expertise in other crafts (and particularly metalwork) is suggested by the inclusion of a pair of bellows on the wall inside his niche-like shop. Interestingly, the interior of the wooden drawer is adorned with floral motifs and red paint, more typical of Turkish furniture and decorative objects than Egyptian.

    The red script to the right of this figure and on the door jamb or frame is inscribed with Arabic texts. There is, at top, the number "81"; the letters at the bottom read "rqm" (raqem) meaning "number". This may refer to the government designation of local Cairene houses and businesses, made for tax or ownership purposes. The long diagonal red line between these two inscriptions might be the word "Masr", meaning "Egypt", although this would be an odd place and context for it.

    The craftsman's shop or workspace itself occupies a niche within this inscribed stone façade, in typical Cairene market street fashion. The aquamarine colouring of the ablaq courses is unusual, however – this striped stonework, typical of the Mamluk era, was usually black and white, red and white, or a combination of these three colours.

    Against the wall on the left are architectural remnants and part of a mashrabiyyah screen. This latter type of woodwork was created without the use of nails or glue; turned wood pieces are fitted together like pieces of a puzzle, to create a beautiful and intricately patterned surface that was at once open and closed. Mashrabiyyah windows were used in the harem in particular for this very reason, as they allowed the women within to see out, while simultaneously protecting them from others' view.

    The detritus on the ground might include an aged mango pip in the foreground on the right, and its inclusion suggests Deutsch's love of incidental detail. Contemporary artists such as the British Orientalist John Frederick Lewis also delighted in such details – Lewis's signature style was an assortment of orange or tangerine peels, however, scattered across the dirt or stone floors that he painted.

    We are grateful to Emily M. Weeks, Ph.D for compiling this catalogue entry.

    The work will be included in a critical catalogue of the Orientalist work of Ludwig Deutsch currently in preparation by Emily M. Weeks, Ph.D.
Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1935) The Woodworker
Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1935) The Woodworker
Auction information

This auction has not been published. Catalogs are usually available four weeks before the auction. If you are interested in consigning property, the last consignment date for this auction is 20 Aug 2021