Inscribed photograph of Django Reinhardt, with drawing of a guitar. Django Reinhardt, Jan Renard.
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Inscribed photograph of Django Reinhardt, with drawing of a guitar.

Paris: c.1942.

Vintage gelatin silver print, photographer's signature stamp in red ink lower right and studio stamp on verso ("Photo-reportages, Jour et Nuit … 9, rue de Rosny — Montreuil …"). 9-3/8 x 7-1/16 inches. Light wear to edges. Provenance: Maurice Détaille (note on verso, "Collection Maurice Detaille"). Dregni, Michael, Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend, p. 131. Item #314395

A candid inscribed photograph of the Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt in a white suit, smoking a cigarette and sipping a glass of Courvoisier while waiting his turn at billiards, his cue stick partially visible resting against the wall. His damaged and scarred left hand is visible on his lap.

Inscribed on Bastille Day with a comparatively lengthy note by the nearly illiterate guitarist, "14 Juillet 1942, à mon tres simpathique [sic] directeur. Django Reinhardt" and embellished with a small drawing of a guitar. The recipient is the impresario Maurice Détaille, who managed Edith Piaf and was director of the A.B.C. Théâtre, Paris. Django performed numerous times at Détaille's club, and at the time of this inscription was engaged to perform from July 3-31.

Django received little education as a child and was illiterate into adulthood, signing his early contracts with a cross. His bandmate Stéphane Grappelli worked with Django to teach him to write his name and to form the alphabet in uppercase. Early signatures are little more than a "D" and an "R" followed by a squiggle, but eventually Django learned to write his name in full. "Following his first spelling lessons, Django now began to sound out words and write a purely phonetic French. Stéphane remembered his progress: 'He regularly asked, in odd moments at the theatre, how he should put certain sounds down on paper. Correct spelling did not worry him, but he was interested in being able to write phonetically. "Dis, Grappelly," he would say, "what does so-and-so mean?" "How would you write this down?"' Just as he improvised music, Django was improvising spelling" (Dregni, p. 131). Discounting the lack of accent marks, there is remarkably only one spelling mistake in Django's inscription ("simpathique" for "sympathique"). Given Django's limited written vocabulary and the effort involved in forming each letter or asking for assistance, it is unusual to find an inscription of such length.

The photographer, Jan Renard (1913-1942), opened a photography studio in the Paris suburb of Montreuil in May of 1938. He was secretary of the local Communist Party chapter and was arrested in November of 1939 for his political activities. In February of 1942 he moved his studio to Paris (which dates the present photograph between May 1938 and February 1942). Renard was arrested several months later by the Occupation in a roundup of some 1,000 French Communists and deported to Auschwitz where he was killed on September 13, 1942.

A remarkable and evocative image of the Gypsy guitarist at leisure, with an unusually long inscription.

Price: $17,500.00 Free International Delivery