I picked up this pencil portrait in the puces at Sète for 20 euros, on a windy Easter Sunday. The seller told me the artist was famous for his designs for stamps. Charles Mazelin (1882-1984) studied at the decorative arts school in Paris and received the Prix de Rome twice, in 1906 and 1908. He began engraving in the field of philately only in 1939. His predilection for the fine line can be seen in this early drawing, executed on the eve of the Great War. It is dedicated in the bottom right-hand corner to “ma belle soeur, Jenny Soustelle, bien affectueusement…” The boy is perhaps the artist’s nephew.
The seller in Sète also had an unframed portrait drawing of an unidentified adult male, which I regret not buying. This drawing of the boy seemed to be in its original frame, the passe-partout foxed, the paper sun-faded, the glass smeared. The subject in his sailor suit has the most marvellous searching blue eyes and defiant look. I hope he survived conscription and the war, but something tells me he did not. The artist lived on to the fine age of 102 years.