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Modigliani painted his friend and fellow artist Paul Guillaume at the young age of 23. Guillame was already a keen artist by that age. Modigliani testifies to this in the title that he gave the work 'New Helmsman'.
A Star of David was added to the top right corner of the painting that Modigliani did of Paul Guillaume. He also added the phrase in Latin 'Stella Maris', which translates to 'Star of the Sea'.
Interestingly, there is also a swastika in the bottom right of the portrait close to where the artist has signed the portrait. However, it is important to point out that when the painting was composed in the early 1900's the Nazis did not exist and the symbol was simply an ancient Sanskrit symbol.
It is thought that the sitting for the painting was done in a cellar with good lighting. The cellar contained several bottles of wine which the two friends enjoyed sharing during the sittings. The cellar was located in Paris, where both men were living at the time. Guillaume was a particular supported of the art scene in Paris at the time.
Modigliani's friend, Paul Guillaume came from a poor family. He supported himself by working in a garage. One day, in the middle of a shipment of rubber that was being used to make tyres, was an African mask. Paul Guillaume was fascinated by the discovery and started to study African art. He went on to have a large collection of African art.
Guillaume died at the young age of just 42. His death led to many questions being raised, particularly regarding his wife. Interestingly, she decided to give Guillaume's collection of art away to the french.
The painting is certainly one of intrigue, and contains the characteristics such as the elongated subject that we would expect from Modigliani. The painting is even more exciting when you consider the special relationship of the two men.