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Bahman Mohasses (Iranian, 1931-2010)
Ramsès Younan (Egyptian, 1913-1966)

Untitled (Shells)

Ramsès Younan (Egyptian, 1913-1966)
Untitled (Shells)
oil on canvas
12 x 19 in. (31 x 48 cm.)
Painted circa 1933-1938
The artist’s estate.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Post Lot Text
This work will be included in the forthcoming monograph on Ramsès Younan, by Sylvie & Sonia Younan & Jean Colombain, to be published early 2018 by Les Presses du Réel.

Lot Essay

The present work depicting shells provides a rare insight in Younan’s early production dating from 1933-1938 period, right before the creation of the rebellious ‘Art and Liberty’ group, of which the artist was a founding member, and when he was working closely with fellow Egyptian artists Ezekiel Baroukh (1909-1984). The shells take up the entire space in the composition, showcasing a wide array of beige and ochre shapes floating against a grey-blue background, ingeniously conveying a lively vibration to the viewer’s eye. The iconography of the shell, with its symbolic allusions to birth and sexuality, goes back to Antique Latin culture, relating to the classical Greek myth of the birth of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, coming out of a seashell. Shells are also associated to the female sex, symbolising the origin of life and the origin of pleasure, whilst the hypnotising nautilus shell on the right of the composition refers to the idea of a cycle, possibly the cycle of life. Despite this seemingly poetic composition of shells, Younan’s strange choice of organic shapes and flesh-colours is also disturbing by the fact that they recall human anatomical parts, disconnecting the shells from reality and plunging the viewer in an unsettling realm.

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