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Visages de Paris – Plan humoristique de Paris – 1933

  • Author: JEFFAY, Paul (artist)
  • Publisher: Mourlot Frères, Paris
  • Date: 1933
  • Dimensions: Map: 76 x 51 cms / Wrappers: 14.5 x 22.5 cms.


Whimsical 1933 pictorial plan of Paris designed & published by Scottish-born artist Paul Jeffay in support of out-of-work artists

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Visages de Paris – Plan humoristique de Paris dans laquel on retrouvera ses rues, ses monuments, ses amusements, les démarches de son esprit et l’activité de ses quartiers, dressé et imagé par Paul Jeffay, et vendu au profit des oeuvres d’entr’aide aux artistes pauvres.

Se trouve chez l’Auteur, 48 Rue de Bièvres, Fontenay-aux-Roses (Seine)

Mourlot Frères, Imprimeurs, 18 Rue Chabrol, 18 Paris (Xe)

Map: 76 x 51 cms. Wrappers: 14.5 x 22.5 cms. Original colour-printed map, folded and preserved in its original light brown card wrappers. Rectangular paste-on to upper front cover depicting a pair of poor artists standing on a stylised map of Paris. Introductory note by Tristan Remy to inside of front cover. Slight toning, wear & creasing to wrappers with short clean split at top.  The map printed on thick paper and overall in fine condition & with no tears or fold damage, as so often typical of folding maps of this genre & era. Original ink inscription on map verso, visible when front wrapper is opened (but not showing through onto recto map image), and reading “au Bon camarade Jean Lebedeff Souvenir amicale Paul Jeffay 1933 Fontenay-aux-Roses Seine”.

This entertaining and curiously whimsical pictorial map of Paris was designed and published by the Scottish-born Jewish artist, Paul Jeffay (Saul Yaffie) [1898-1957] in 1933.

The left-wing poet & promoter of proletarian literature & circus culture, Tristan Rémy [1897-1977], a close friend of Jeffay, writes a short introduction to the map on the inside cover. It is roughly translated as follows:


It requires a temperament overflowing with imagination & fantasy to design a humorous plan of Paris which  remains a plan but in which one might also discover the streets, the entertainments, the characters of each of neighbourhood and their daily customs and labours.  

It is also necessary to fear neither scorn nor pious minds in such difficult times so that an author can take time to laugh & smile. When all artistic values have been reworked, just like the canvas of those rejected paintings, it was almost an impossible bet to deliberately choose only the amusing side of history, to consider the present-day world from the perspective of anecdote, diversity and detail, and to create in this Paris a capital city that has gone just slightly mad, her face now fully turned towards joke & satire.  

But nothing was more necessary, this plan having no other goal, in so far as it will be welcomed by the public, than to offer fraternal assistance to out-of-work artists faced with the difficulties of life. 

The map itself offers a wonderfully humorous pictorial snapshot of early 1930s Paris. Artists and painters unsuprisingly feature prominently, with numerous comic vignettes of female nudes & artists at their easels. Along the banks of the Seine innumnerable fishermen stand or sit with rods in hand, some admiring the group of beautiful mermaids basking in mid-stream, west of Notre Dame, whilst the stalls of the City’s renowned bouquinistes line the Left Bank along the Quai D’Austerlitz. The principal buildings, streets and quartiers are all marked and their particular local identity, history & individual character illuminated in the vivid and entertaining pastiche of humorous vignettes that fills the map.

Nor does Jeffay resist the occasional political side-swipe. Like Remy, Jeffay was clearly on the political Left in terms of his political sympathies. After the French Left’s rejuvenation at the 1932 Elections & the rise of the NSDAP & Hitler in Germany during the same period, the issues of pacifism and disarmament increasingly divided French political opinion. So his depiction of the Ecole Militaire, the French Military Academy, situated adjacent to the Eiffel Tower, is especially topical in its evident irony. Here two doves hold up a notice declaring that the building has been closed “due to everlasting Peace”!

Another artist portrayed standing at his easel before a nude in Montparnasse may not be Picasso but is certainly one of many modernist & abstract painters, including Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian and Man Ray, who congregated in this area of the Left Bank during the 1920s and 1930s to the extent that they became collectively known as the “Montparnos”.

Here unveiled is a truly carefree & relaxed City of endless temptations – interestingly a devilish horned figure with forked tail features in several of the vignette images!  In the East of the City, a curious line a shadowy figures marches southwards around the periphery of the City towards the Bois de Vincennes, many carrying cameras, film equipment & unfurled scripts, a clear reference to the recently-built studio established by American filmmakers Paramount in the eastern Paris suburb of Joinville in 1930.

Around the border of the map, Jeffay continues the theme of the energetic & vibrant modern metropolis, reminiscent of the border on Charles Vernon Farrow’s map of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan [1926] the amusing vignette scenes conveying the endless Parisian merry-go-round of sports, leisure & entertainment, in which the motor car features prominently. In one of the scenes, the celebrated Parisian dancer & entertainer Josephine Baker, once described by Ernest Hemingway, as “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw “, is seen emerging from a smart limousine in typically “modest” attire. In each of the four corners, Jeffay pays tribute to the City’s traffic policemen, each portrayed as a beatific winged angel & calmly waving his truncheon aloft in the midst of this Parisian whirligig of chaos.

Artist Paul Jeffay was born in Blythwood, Glasgow as Saul (or Solomon or Sammie) Yeffie on 29th April 1898. He was the son of Russian immigrants Bernard and Kate Yeffie (née Karkinofski) who had fled to Britain in the wake of the terrible anti-Jewish pogroms that followed the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. Bernard & his wife and their growing family settled in the Gorbals district of central Glasgow – the heart of the Jewish immigrant community in Glasgow at the end of the 19th Century – where he soon established a successful tailoring business, initially in Great Clyde Street and later in Stockwell Street. In 1901 he became a naturalised British citizen. By around 1910, like so many upwardly mobile Jewish immigrants, Yaffie had managed to move out of central Glasgow to live with his family in the more salubrious surroundings of Sinclair Drive, Cathcart. Saul attended day classes at the Glasgow School of Art between 1912 and 1919, one of several Jewish artists including Benno Schotz, who studied there during this period. In his autobiography, “Bronze in My Blood” [1981], Schotz recounts how Yaffie had won a poster competition at the beginning of the war, his winning design, which was displayed on the Glasgow tramcars, depicting a woman with young child in her arms fleeing from a fire behind her. He appears to have avoided initial conscription, probably due to his age, but by 1916 the GSA records show he had been seconded to help with local munitions work. By 1917 he had been conscripted. Indeed he later mentioned to Schotz how he had for some time been stationed in the same Army unit as Jacob Epstein, the famous sculptor. Yaffie recalled the incongruous scene of seeing Epstein scrubbing the floor of their hut with a huge diamond ring on his finger. Yaffie’s British Army medal record, preserved in the National Archives, would appear to support this. He appears as Corporal Solomon Yaffie, a junior NCO with the Royal Fusiliers, almost certainly the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. This was part of the so-called Jewish Legion, formed in 1917 and comprising two front line & two reserve Battalions & some 5000 Jewish recruits. For the 38th these came largely from within Britain, whilst the other units recruited more widely from America, Canada, South America and also from amongst Jewish Palestinian refugees. As well as sculptor Jacob Epstein, their number included fellow artist Bernard Meninsky and (in the 40th Battalion) David Ben Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Itzak Ben Zvi. The Legion was specifically recruited by the British Army to fight against the Turks in Palestine & Egypt, a momentous event in Jewish history and an historic decision for the British authorities to allow an independent Jewish fighting unit to be formed within the British Army yet with its own banner & a special cap badge with the Menorah & Kadimah design. Yaffie’s unit, the 38th Battalion, quickly acquired the nickname of the “Royal Jewsiliers” or “King’s Own Schneiders” (because so many recruits came from the cloth & tailoring professions). The 38th enjoyed a special parade through London’s East End in February 1918 before their departure to the Middle East and Yaffie certainly appears to have served in both Palestine & Egypt during these final months of the war. Curiously the Glasgow School of Art Roll of Honour records his war service as having been with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. After the Armistice Yaffie returned to Glasgow but soon decided to “try his luck in Paris” (Schotz). His father’s tailoring business suffered badly in the post-war economic depression and the rest of the family eventually emigrated to Canada.

Yaffie quickly settled into the artistic milieu of post-war Paris, setting up an atelier at 5 rue Tholoze in bohemian Montmatre & soon adopting the name “Samuel” or “Paul Jeffay”, the latter being the one he would use on all of his subsequent art. He set up home at 63 rue Mirabeau, a pleasant cobbled street in the southern Parisian suburb of Choisy-le-Roi.  His work, Portrait d’une poète de Paris, Avril 1920 (the sitter identified only as RBD), was exhibited at the Salon d’Automne at the Grand Palais between October & December 1920. Indeed the shabbily dressed figure of a bohemian artist, wearing tall hat & red scarf, pipe in mouth, portfolio under one arm, walking nonchalantly past the Grand Palais may well be a wonderful piece of comic & covert self-portraiture. Jeffay exhibited two further major works of art at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants (SDAI) in 1928 and priced at 2500 & 5000 Francs respectively. As well as painting in oils, he is perhaps best known for his attractive etchings, especially of Parisian street & riverside scenes. By the late 1920s he had moved to Fontenay-aux-Roses in the southwestern suburbs of the French capital.

It is here, in Fontenay-aux-Roses, that Jeffay would have first met his neighbour at No.19 rue des Bièvres, fellow artist and woodblock engraver, Jean Lebedeff [1884-1972]. Lebedeff had moved out from Montparnasse in the 1920s. This map was clearly given to Lebedeff by Jeffay as a special personal gift – en souvenir amicale – around the time of its first publication in 1933. Also Jewish, Russian-born and libertarian & socialist in his political leanings, Lebedeff would undoubtedly have had a great deal in common with Jeffay and from the tone of the inscription they were clearly close.

Interestingly whilst Jeffay would return to Britain with his wife Estusia just prior to the German invasion in May 1940, going first to Glasgow & then settling briefly in Manchester during the war years, Lebedeff would remain in Fontenay throughout the German occupation  & long war years. His studio became a haven & hiding place for many Jewish friends and left-wing anarchists & activists pursued by the Gestapo, for whom Lebedeff would also endeavour to acquire fake identity papers.

Jeffay and his wife would return to France after the war where he continued his career as painter and printmaker until his death in 1957. One of his best known works, Visages du ghetto, was published posthumously by his widow in 1959. It is a collection of 14 wonderfully expressive etched portraits of Jewish figures in one of the Polish ghettos, apparently visited by Jeffay during the interwar years.

Lebedeff married three times and in his final years moved to Provence with his third wife and their son, settling in the town of Gallargues-le-Montueux in the Gard. He died in September 1972. This map was probably amongst the many items sold when his residual collection & estate was auctioned in Nîmes in 2017.

A unique, personally inscribed association copy of this extremely rare and unusual pictorial map of Paris.

Refs: Maja Shand, GSA Archives 2015: Paul Jeffay: Artist in Exile