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GIBRAN, Kahlil.

Original drawing: the Prophet Almustafa.

1923 or after Stock Code: 130660
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Self-portrait as The Prophet

Original drawing by the author, a version of the same image that was used as the frontispiece to The Prophet. It is evidently an idealized portrait of Gibran himself. Several versions are known; this example was a gift to Barbara Young, his last companion and assistant, author of a biography of Gibran.

Gibran (1883-1931) emigrated from Lebanon (in what was then the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate) with his parents and siblings, settling in the South End of Boston. The Boston publisher and photographer F. Holland Day funded his education, encouraging him to read Whitman and study the drawings of Blake. As early as 1898 some of Gibran's drawings were published as binding designs; his first art exhibition was held in 1904 in Day's studio. In the intervening years, he had returned to Lebanon and studied at al-Hikma, a Maronite-run preparatory school and college in Beirut, during which time he started a student literary magazine and made a reputation for himself at the school as a poet. He returned to the United States in 1902.

Already an accomplished artist, in 1908-10 he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. At the same time, his literary interests blossomed. He was broadly influenced from the time of his Beirut studies by the writing of the Syrian writer Francis Marrash, whose works dealt with many of the themes of love, freedom and spirituality that were to become Gibran's hallmarks. Most of his earliest writings were in Arabic; he was an influential member Arab-American League of the Pen (al-Rabita al-Qalamiyya), a group of expatriate writers then active in New York, often referred to as "al-Mahjar," issuing numerous newspaper articles, poems and several books. In 1918, Gilbran published his first book in English, The Madman, a collection of seven parables, and this was followed by several English-language works, some with his illustrations, before The Prophet was published by Alfred Knopf in 1923.

It is this work, a collection of 26 prose poetry fables, which has brought Gibran enduring fame outside the Arab world; it remains one of the most popular works of poetry of all time. It sold out its first printing in a month, and has sold in vast quantities thereafter, almost entirely by word-of-mouth. It has been translated into at least 50 languages, and somewhere between 50 and 100 million copies have been sold world-wide by most estimates, making it among the most reprinted works of poetry ever written.

Provenance: Kahlil Gibran to Barbara Young; by gift to Madeleine Vanderpoel; by descent to her son, Wynant D. Vanderpoel.

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Graphite on Dartmouth Bond paper, with watermark (26 x 20 cm), signed with initials in pencil at lower right.


Minimal toning to edges, overall fine.


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