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SOUSTIEL, Jean (Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1938-Paris, 1999)
Antiques dealer and expert in Islamic Art

Born the 9th February 1938, former pupil of the prestigious « École des Roches » in Verneuil-sur-Avre (Eure) in Normandy, where he was a boarder between 1948 to 1956, and later one of its administrators, Jean Soustiel did his military service in Algeria from 1958 to 1960. Having been decorated with the « Croix de la valeur militaire », he continued his studies at « l’École du Louvre » where, between 1960 and 1964, he followed Jean David-Weill’s courses in Islamic Art. He then went to work with his father Joseph Soustiel, a well-known antiques dealer who had been working from 146 boulevard Haussmann in Paris since 1935.

Jean Soustiel inherited from his autodidact ancestors a flair for objects, ceramics, weapons, fabrics, embroideries ... A delightful storyteller, he knew how to bring to life these « objets d'art » from the East, revealing particular aspects of their history, their original meaning and their beauty. A patron of the arts, he was a generous donator to the Islamic Collections of the Louvre and to the «musée national de la céramique » in Sèvres. In 1982, his generosity to the national museums meant that he was made a Knight of « arts et lettres ».

An undisputed specialist in Islamic Art and an internationally recognised expert, Jean Soustiel was also an admirer of other expressions of art. At the beginning of his career, he took an interest in Art Nouveau. From 1965 onwards, he was passionate about the life and work of the sculptor Jean Carriès (1855-1894), donating this artist’s papers to the « Archives départementales » of Nièvre in Nevers and a certain number of his works to the town of Saint-Amand in Puisaye. From 1973 to 1993, he actively contributed to the organisation of numerous exhibitions in his gallery on boulevard Haussmann, showing the arts of Islam, oriental miniatures from India, or orientalist painting (organising the first private exhibition on this theme in 1975). The quality of his exhibitions, as well as the works proposed for sale, created world events —souvenirs from the Imperial Ottoman family, clothes from the harem of the last emir of Boukhara. Drafting catalogue entries with the best specialists, he created reference texts. Author of a brilliant synthesis on La Céramique islamique (Fribourg, Office du Livre, 1985), he assembled during the course of five journeys through Asia, between 1991 and 1998, all the material for a book on the ceramics of Samarkand. But he fell ill and died in Paris on the 12th August 1999. The fruit of his research appeared posthumously, thanks to his former pupil and friend Yves Porter under the title Tombeaux de Paradis, la céramique architecturale d'Asie centrale (Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, éd. Monelle Hayot, 2003).


Bibliography :
Jean Soustiel, "Arts musulmans. Chronicle of Parisian Antiques Gallery", Arts and the Islamic World, IV/4 (Autumn-Winter 1987/8), pp. 69-73 ; Les Donateurs du Louvre, exhibition catalogue, musée du Louvre (April-August 1989), pp. 86-91, 325.

Frédéric Hitzel, CNRS

Jean Soustiel le 13 septembre 1997

Jean Soustiel accueillant Jacques Chirac sur son stand à la Biennale des Antiquaires en 1986

Devant le magasin avec les jumelles du Sultan Abdulhamid II, en juin 1999