SÈVRES FIGURE: JOUEUSE DE LUTH
By Jan and Joël Martel
Height: 21 5/8 in. (55 cm)
Mark: impressed factory mark, incised on the base "J.J. Martel"
The twin brother artist team of Jan and Joël Martel (both 1896-1966) produced a number of sculptures for the Sèvres factory in the 1920s and 30s. This is one of a pair of figures which the Martels carved for the monument to Claude Debussy inaugurated in 1932, which is located on the Avenue Chantemesse in Paris near the Bois de Boulogne in the 16th arrondissement. Jan and Joël Martel collaborated on a number of sculptural and decorative projects in the Art Déco and Cubist styles, both of which are apparent in the present sculpture. The Sèvres factory acquired the terracotta model of this sculpture in 1935 and produced the model in biscuit porcelain from 1935 to 1939.
The Martels were close collaborators of the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens who included a studio for them in a development of artists’ houses he built in the 16th arrondissement. The monumental plaster model for our sculpture is still preserved in this studio.
The aesthetic of the sculpture reflects the Art Deco style, which was solidified at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1925, a show in which the Martel brothers participated. The style, celebrating symmetry and streamlined shapes, continued to be popular through the 1930s and 40s, and is exemplified by buildings such as the Chrysler Building in New York.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was a French composer and music critic. One of the most important musicians of his time, Debussy is closely associated with the painters and poets of the Impressionist and Symbolist movements of the late 19th century. His delicate and layered orchestral writing and his harmonic innovations were inspiration for 20th century composers including Boulez, Messiaen, Webern, Bartók and Stravinsky, and his wide-reaching musical affects revolutionized contemporary classical music.