Louay Kayyali (Syria, 1934-1978) The Cake (Kaak) Seller

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Lot 17
Louay Kayyali
(Syria, 1934-1978)
The Cake (Kaak) Seller

Sold for £ 137,562 (US$ 179,866) inc. premium
Louay Kayyali (Syria, 1934-1978)
The Cake (Kaak) Seller
oil on masonite, framed
signed "Louay Kayyali" and dated 1974 in Arabic (lower left), executed in 1974
97 x 76cm (38 3/16 x 29 15/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Acquired directly from the artist by the late Mrs Hadba Nizar Kabbani
    Thence by descent to the present owner


    Louay Kayyali is remembered as one of the most sought-after Arab artists of the Modernist era. We are honoured to be presenting three exquisite examples of the artist's tender and ennobling depictions of Syrian daily life. These paintings come to market with extraordinary provenance; "The Cake (Ka'ak) Seller" coming from the distinguished collection of the late Hadba Qabbani, daughter of the late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, who acquired the painting directly from the artist, "Maaloula" having been acquired directly from the artist by one of his relatives and "Portrait of Jacqueline van den Brandeler (nee. Merrier)" was commissioned by the former Dutch Ambassador in Syria H.E Jonkheer D. van den Brandeler.


    Kayyali was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1934. He received an art scholarship in 1956 to study at Rome's Academy of Fine Arts and participated in numerous exhibitions and fairs during his time in Italy, including representing Syria along with Fateh Al Moudarres at the 1960 Venice Biennale. In 1961, Kayyali returned to Syria where he took up a professorship at the Damascus Higher Institute of Fine Arts. After the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War with Israel in 1967, Kayyali abandoned painting due to depression. In the early 1970s, he returned to painting and began producing numerous paintings depicting everyday people from the streets of Syria's such as newspaper sellers, shoe-shiners, and the characters depicted in the present works

    "The Cake (Ka'ak) Seller" is a prime examples of Kayyali's mature period in which key characters from Syrian daily life merge to the forefront. In this body of work, Kayyali highlights the protagonist's struggle and vividly captures how political upheaval affected the Syrian population's demeanor, shaping a culture and society that led to poverty and societal marginalization. Kayyali conveys a mixture of empathetic admiration and sad affection for his poor but noble subject matters

    These mesmerizing portraits condensing all minor detail articulate the softness and vulnerability of Kayyal's subjects. Melancholy, resignation and solitude best characterise much of Kayyali's work after the 1967 war and the sentiments of political failure in Syria and the Arab world in general. His paintings externalized the pressing humanitarian and political issues that surrounded him. Kayyali's powerful depictions of ordinary people are characterized by strong fluid lines that define the figures and the absence of extraneous detail.
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