It’s 1914. and Orientalism meets Art Nouveau and the early stirrings of Art Deco in Emile-Allain Séguy’s “Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”.

Another wonderful series of plates by turn of the century French design guru, Emile-Allain Séguy. Made just before WW1, in the pre-Art Deco Paris of 1914, Séguy, inspired by exotic lands far away, stamps his unique mark on Orientalism. 

Séguy’s “Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental” (Samarkand: 20 Color Compositions in the Oriental Style), is an album with 20 pochoir pattern plates, published in Paris by Charles Massin. 

Plate 1 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 15 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 14 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914

In 1914, the city of Samarkand was considered Persia (today it’s Uzbekistan), an ancient melting pot of romantic Arabian culture: a fertile land full of kasbars, plentiful bazaars and harems; the oldest continually occupied city in all of Central Asia.

I know no place in it or in Samarkand itself where if one ascends some elevated ground one does not see greenery and a pleasant place, and nowhere near it are mountains lacking in trees or a dusty steppe,” said the 10th-century Iranian author Istakhri, “Samakandian extends eight days travel through unbroken greenery and gardens. It is the most fruitful of all the countries of Allah; in it are the best trees and fruits, in every home are gardens, cisterns and flowing water”.

A bazaar in Samarkand,
illustration by Léon Benett for the Jules Verne novel,
Claudius Bombarnac (1892)
Plate 12 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 9 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914

Using his own, imagined Arabia and the Oriental style of Samarkand art, these designs were la mode inspiration for designers of textiles or wallpapers. They feature semi-abstract flora motifs and suggestions of garden design, palaces and. Executed with bold colors, the semi-abstract designs in this album present an an early fusion of Art Nouveau and Art Deco style. Séguy illustrations reveal his unique interest in the study of nature as a source of inspiration for artistic creation, something that will fuel his design for years to come. Hugely fashionable in France at the turn of the 20th century, his choice of the pochoir printing technique perfectly reflects the vivid colors of nature in Orientalist design.

Séguy’s vision was about how Samarkand felt to him, how he wanted it to feel. This is how the real place looked in the early 1900s.

Plate 1 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 8 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 10 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 6 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 20 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 19 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 16 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 11 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 13 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 18 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 17 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 5 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 4 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 3 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914
Plate 2 : Samarkande: 20 Compositions en couleurs dans le Style oriental”, E. A. Séguy, 1914

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