Mauri Couple, Mauritania #106-8: scarlet, deep brown, brown carmineBud's Big Blue
France boasts of many excellent stamp designers and engravers whose art adorns not only stamps of the Republic, but also colonial stamps. Scott #s 106-8, among many others, justify the bragging.
The artist is Georges-Léo Degorce (1894-1943), an accomplished painter who turned to stamp designing only toward the end of his life. At the time, critics apparently regarded his early stamp work as less than first rate. When he gets credited, his name usually follows that of a more distinguished artist. His effort in a designing a stamp to commemorate French and British cooperation, for which he had received a commission, was rejected.
Rejected design for France Scott #352 (I rather like it)
Nevertheless, I find his designs admirable, particularly his treatment of colonial subjects (1937-9). Their appealing simplicity and nuanced facial expressions make them stand out. In addition to his colonial stamps, he designed/engraved more than 40 others, including several for the Republic of France and Monaco.
Mandara Woman. Cameroun, Scott # 231, plumb
Hausa Basket Workers, Guinee, Scott #135, ultra
Perhaps Degorse became interested in colonial subjects at the grand Colonial Exhibition (Paris, 1931). He produced 25 lithographs of the Exposition that were published with an introduction by André Maurois (“Sur Le Vif": L'Exposition Coloniale, Paris 1931), now a highly collectable volume.
1931 Exposition Common Designs, Mauritania, Scott #s 66-7, violet, red orange
The only other Mauritania stamps with Degorce credited (bottom left) feature Marshal Pétain inspecting a desert scene -- cattle sufficing as pack animals. (It’s a hijacked mirror image of J. Puyplat’s 1913 “crossing desert” design used on many earlier Mauritania stamps.) Degorce’s name also appears on the other stamps of this pan-colonial Pétain series, always in second place.
Mauritania, Scott #s 114-5, green, deep blue
In addition to the general facts about Mauritania that Jim lists in the main part of this blog, I’ll mention three more.
“Mauri” is the Latin name for the Berbers of ancient Mauretania, which was located in what is now northern Morocco and western Algeria along the Mediterranean Sea. Contemporary Mauritania (note the slight spelling difference) is situated further south along the Atlantic coast of Africa. The English word “Moors” derives from the Latin “Mauri”.
In urban slang, however, “Mauri” has an altogether different meaning. It’s an adjective used to describe something, usually a person, that’s amazingly gorgeous. I would say that Degorce’s colonial stamps are definitely Mauri-licious.
One final note. Modern Mauritania, the last country in the world to make slavery illegal (1981), sadly still has, according to activist groups, as much as 20 percent of the population enslaved, primarily from the minority Haratine or Afro-Mauritanian peoples. I do not recommend collecting modern Mauritania stamps.
Census: 81 in BB spaces, 59 on supplement pages.Jim's Observaions
Obscure (to me) parts of the world are made a little more real with the tangible pieces of paper in my collection.
Mauritania Blog Post & BB Checklist