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Jean-Alphonse Duplessy : “Cobbler’s Quarters” (1860s)

Archival Inkjet on Matte Finish Fine Art Paper

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This modest room is both the professional and personal domain of its inhabitant. Although the cobbler himself is not represented, he is nevertheless portrayed through all the details of his daily life. On the floor two pairs of boots wait to be repaired, surrounded by craftsman’s tools. The pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room provides both heat and a place for cooking meals to be eaten at the folding table in the background at the left. The curtain behind the table probably hides an alcove with the cobbler’s bed. A small statuette of Napoleon on the shelf at the upper right suggests the cobbler’s political views. Next to it hangs a cage containing a green parakeet. Today the bird would undoubtedly be replaced by a radio, a necessary fixture to keep manual laborers company as they work.

Little is known of Duplessy, who studied and worked in Paris, except that he concentrated on still-life painting. His interest in this subject can be seen in the careful rendering of object groupings in this scene. No records of the artist’s life exist after 1872, the last year his work was shown at the annual Salon exhibition.

(Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art).

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