Arnold Daghani, Self-portrait as a Jester - Original 1969 pen & ink drawing
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An original 1969 pen & ink drawing, Arnold Daghani Self-portrait as a Jester.
This large and striking ink drawing is a self-portrait of Romanian artist Arnold Daghani (1909-1985). The drawing was gifted to friend of the artist and fellow Romanian, Edith Hecht.
Signed upper left. Inscribed below the image “Many happy returns, Ditha, and bless you! Arnold and Anisoara. March, 1969.”
There is creasing to the paper, including vertical creasing left of centre and in particular towards the edges of the sheet. There are two closed tears, one of which has been repaired historically at the lower edge and the other at the right-hand edge.
64cm x 49.5cm.
Dressed as a jester in this drawing, the artist perches on a table with downcast, melancholic gaze. Daghani here plays on the mythic trope of the “sad clown”, a character commonly portrayed in poetry, fiction, the visual arts, and on stage and screen. In 19th-century France the sad clown became an avatar of the post-Revolutionary People, struggling, sometimes tragically, to secure a place in the bourgeois world. In turn, the figure came to represent the alter-ego of the alienated artist.
Daghani’s depiction here is not without comedy, however - the artist’s unadorned face and glasses unexpected amid the oversized jester’s garb. The upbeat greeting inscribed below the image confirms the drawing as more tongue-in-cheek than tortured artist.
The role of alienated artist is, nevertheless, particularly poignant in relation to Daghani, a Holocaust and labour camp survivor, and serial emigrator.
Arnold Daghani (1909-1985) came from a German-speaking Jewish family in Suczawa (now Suceava in Romania).
In June 1942 Daghani and his wife Anisoara were deported to the slave labour camp of Mikhailowka (south-west Ukraine), from where they managed to escape in July 1943. Daghani’s account of this was published in Romanian (1947), German (1960) and in English as “The Grave is in the Cherry Orchard” (1961).
In 1958 the Daghanis left Romania, emigrating to Israel, France and Switzerland, before finally settling in Hove, England in 1977.
In 1987 the Arnold Daghani Trust donated a substantial collection of around 6,000 works to the University of Sussex.