This work is unusual. Most of Mela Muter's paintings seem to turn up orphaned on the doorstep of auction houses, without secure provenance or history. This one is different, having been in the same family for many years. Muter's celebrity sitters are usually always recorded, but this painting is unusual in that it features an ordinary man whose name and circumstances are recorded, and there is an anecdote accompanying the painting.
This is Emile Verdet, owner of "Le Coq Hardi" and later the restaurant "Verdet" in Avignon, France. When Muter was seeking refuge in Avignon during the Second World War, she and other impoverished artists ate at Emile Verdet's restaurants. Put up for sale last year, the painting has been in the Verdet family since it was painted and given to Emile, in lieu of payment for a meal.
Muter's mantra was "concentrate on the important things." She always put a great deal of work into the faces and hands of sitters, usually expending less time and energy on clothing, backgrounds etc. This work receives a consistently high level of attention throughout.