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Jacques Majorelle (French, 1886-1962)
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Jacques Majorelle (French, 1886-1962)

Groupe devant la Koutoubia, Marrakesh

Jacques Majorelle (French, 1886-1962)
Groupe devant la Koutoubia, Marrakesh
signed and inscribed ‘J.majorelle / marrakech’ (lower left)

gouache on paper
24 ¾ x 21 1/8 in. (62.9 x 53.7 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Millon et Associés, Paris, 29 May 2009, lot 90.
Anonymous sale; Dorotheum, Vienna, 7 October 2009, lot 448.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

In 1917, at the age of 31, Jacques Majorelle visited Morocco for the first time. Overawed by the country, he would eventually spend the rest of his life there. As early as 1923 he began work on his villa in Marrakech, built in the Moorish style. Its gardens, later restored by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, are now world famous. Majorelle followed in the footsteps of Delacroix and the famous Orientalist painters who had travelled to North Africa in the mid-19th century. However, he developed and created a new pictorial language in which the legacy of Orientalism is subsumed to new modernist currents. The painter left behind the imaginary Orient, the fashionable Harem scenes, Fantasias, and Palace guards, and focused more on everyday subjects: the souks, the markets and city life. 
The Koutoubia Mosque or Mosque of the Booksellers was built on the ruins of an ancient Almoravid palace and inaugurated in 1157. Under the Almohad Caliph Yacoub El-Mansour the Mosque was rebuilt when it was realized that the mihrab wasn’t correctly aligned towards Mecca. The Mosque’s name, refers to the numerous booksellers (koutoubiyyin) active in the nearby square and souk. The Mosque’s minaret tower, which is one of the city’s landmarks, is 77 meters high and inspired that of the Giralda in Seville.
The present work is one of the rare examples of Majorelle’s homage to the city and at the magnificent minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque. What Majorelle described in his diary seems to correspond to the image of the colourful grouping depicted here around the Mosque : ‘Des fenêtres de mon atelier, que ne vout-on pas de passionnant sur cette place qui en elle-même n’a rien d’extraordinaire, mais qui devient par la foule qui s’y entasse une des plus belles choses qu’on puisse voir au monde (de l’avis de ceux qui savent voir et il y en a beaucoup ici’ (lettre à Etienne Cournault, 28 juillet 1917). The colourfully dressed women in Haïk contrast with the subdued and earth tones of Marrakech.

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