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Who is J. Chemla?

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Our Chemla Collection is based on the works of Jacob Chemla (Arabic: يعقوب شملا, Hebrew: יעקב שמלה), (1858-1938) Tunisian Jewish ceramist, author, journalist, playwright and translator. He was the first Tunisian artist/artisan to be authorised by the colonial government to produce ceramics (at the time only the French were allowed).

J. Chemla started his ceramics works in 1881, when he set up shop in the Place des Potiers in Tunis. In 1887, the French colonial government tasked him to revive traditional Tunisian ceramics which he did with distinction. This lead him receive several prizes notably at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in 1925 in Paris as well as being promoted to Knight of the Legion of Honour by the French government, one of the highest distinctions awarded to civilians, for his contribution to arts and culture in 1926.

After his passing it was his sons Victor, Albert and Moise that perpetuated the family know-how until 1966 when they decided to close down.

J. Chemla's pieces and tiles are to this day adorning many houses of the Tunis bourgeoisie and even the presidential palace in Carthage.

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