The sculptor Emile Derré was born in Montmartre. An anarchist and Dreyfusard, he is best known today for his decoration on Parisian façades. This stoneware tile produced by a company specialising in architectural ceramics is an example of the artists’ early work.
This model (or single version, no stone version having been found) was exhibited at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français in 1895 with the title Stone fragment of a door pillar for an ancient abbey, 15th century, marking his admiration for the art of the Middle Ages. When it was exhibited again at the Universal Exhibition in 1900, it bore the Symbolist title, The soul of old stones.
The material, shape, plastic treatment and initial title hark back to the unfinished masterpiece by Jean Carriès, the Monumental Door, enamelled stoneware fragments of which were exhibited as a posthumous tribute at the National Fine Art Salon in the spring of 1895. The figure of the old beggar woman is in the miserabilist naturalist vein of the late 19th century, a trend which is well represented in the City of Paris collections. The Petit Palais already owns a work by Derré in the form of a monumental vase from the Sèvres factory acquired in 1931.