Mademoiselle Maxa of the Grand Guignol, Paris


Isaac Israels was a master in capturing a moment or a face with only several well placed brushstrokes. This expressionist painting shows the portrait of Mademoiselle Maxa, executed in dark red and brown tones. Paula Maxa was a French actress and one of the best-known performers at Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Paris. This theater functioned as an intimate venue with around 300 seats and was specialized in naturalistic horror shows, a popular genre. (To illustrate: Shakespeare's tragedy Titus Andronicus was once on show here.) From 1917 to the 1930's, Mademoiselle Maxa performed frequently as a victim and was therefore known as 'the most assassinated woman in the world'. 

Israels painted her portrait in 1920 and was considering entering the piece for the 'Exposition hollandaise', held in Paris in April-May 1921. He wrote a letter to his Dutch colleague-painter Jan Veth (1864-1925), one of the persons in charge of the preparations for the exhibition, with whom he discussed his consideration and who supported Israels' decision. Consequently, Israels corresponded with Ms. Maxa to ask for her permission. From her reply, in which she praises the artist's talent, it is clear that she was pleased and honored: " suis tout à fait flattée et heureuse de figurer parmi de joli tableaux. Votre talent en est la cause et je vous en remercie. Pour le catalogue mettez comme cela vous semblera le mieux, cela n'a aucune importance...".


Collection L. & L . Honsdrecht, Monte Carlo;
Private collection, Hilversum


Anna Wagner, ‘Isaac Israels’, Lemniscaat, Rotterdam, 1985 (no. 163, Illustrated, p.129)

Isaac Lazarus Israels

b. 03.02.1865
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

d. 07.10.1934
The Hague, The Netherlands

Isaac Israels was born in 1865 into an Orthodox Jewish family in Amsterdam. In 1871 the family moved to The Hague, where his father Jozef Israels (1824-1911) was already a well-respected painter. There were always many artists and art lovers in the house of the Israels family. Max Liebermann (1847-1935) for example, was a close friend of the family. Israels also showed a remarkable tale . . .
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