Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985)

Profil de femme et main au coq

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Gouache, watercolour, pastel, brush and India ink and inkwash on paper
76 x 56 cm (29 ⁷/₈ x 22 inches)
Signed lower right, Marc Chagall
Executed in 1962

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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Monte Carlo
    Private collection, Switzerland, circa 1979
    Sotheby's London, December 1999 (titled "La Femme qui Donne le Sein au Monde")
    David Findlay Galleries, New York
    Private collection, USA, acquired from the above in 2000

  • Description

    This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Comité Chagall.

    Hailing from the Russian Empire, Marc Chagall (1887- 1985) is famed for his poetic adaptations of life. Chagall’s success can largely be attributed to his ability to express emotion in such a way that the viewer is lured into his paintings. His love of life is so engulfing and compelling, that one cannot help but be swept away into his world. As such, his work is highly desirable, with his collector base seemingly having no geographical boundaries.

    Painted in 1964, the setting of the work is Chagall’s birthplace, Vitebsk. Steeped in Hassidic culture, the Russian town was fundamental in forming Chagall’s practice and this piece, produced while the artist was living in Paris, illuminates the sense of nostalgia he felt towards his hometown. To Chagall, Vitebsk represented a past world, untouched by the events of history. It was also in Vitebsk where he met his wife, Bella Rosenfeld, the likely subject of this work. He paints her emerging from the periphery of the painting, offering a vivacious bouquet. The flowers are made particularly evocative by the striking medium of gouache, which provides the work with a clarity and depth of colour. It is a truly joyous piece with the accordionist flying above the rooftops, and the iconic Chagall motifs, such as the cockerel and the flowers, coming together in a celebration of love.

    Love is constantly explored in the work of Chagall, and he often uses the theme of music as a way of heightening his portrayal of emotion. He conveys love as an all-encompassing experience, which has an ability to override every sense. This is demonstrated in a similar work L’hiver, which painted only two years after this gouache, also includes a floating musician towards the right-corner of the composition. Sold at auction for over $7.5 million, L’hiver illuminates how Chagall returned to these important symbols frequently throughout his work so that they formed his own visual language. It is this distinctive aesthetic vocabulary and sincere approach to capturing human relationships, which makes him one of history’s most beloved figures.

    This original Marc Chagall piece is available for immediate purchase. 

Artist's Biography

The Russian-born French painter Marc Chagall was born in 1887 to a humble Jewish family in the ghetto of Vitebsk, a large town in White Russia, and passed his childhood steeped in Hasidic culture. Very early in life, Chagall was encouraged by his mother to follow his vocation after she managed to get him into an art school in St Petersburg.

After completing his studies in St Petersburg, Chagall returned to Vitebsk and became engaged to Bella Rosenfeld. In 1910 he set off for Paris which was regarded as “the Mecca of art” and as a tenant at La Ruche, Chagall was in the thick of the artistic community, living alongside both Modigliani and Soutine. During this time in Paris, Chagall’s work was tinged with the influence of Daumier, Jean-François Millet, the Nabis and the Fauves, and he was also influenced by Cubism.

Chagall returned to Vitebsk in 1914, and in 1915, he married Bella. In 1917 he was appointed provincial Commissar for Fine Art and became involved in ambitious projects for a local academy. However, two and a half years later he was forced to leave in order to escape the revolutionary dictates of Malevich.

After a time in Moscow where he worked in the Jewish theatre, then in Berlin where he studied the technique of engraving, Chagall returned to Paris in 1923. He illustrated Gogol’s Dead Souls, La Fontaine's Fables and the Bible for the publisher Vollard.

The French Surrealist Andre Breton admired the "total lyric explosion" of Chagall's pre-war painting and tried to claim that Chagall was a surrealist, although Chagall himself admitted only to having flirted with Surrealism between 1941 and 1948 during his exile in New York. Indeed, Chagall’s emblematic irrationality shook off all outside influences. His compositions were governed largely by colour. Using images from his memory he wove reality and imagination into a single legend, one that was born in Vitebsk and dreamed in Paris.

On his return to France, Chagall discovered ceramics, sculpture and stained glass. He settled in the south of France, first at Vence (1950), then in Saint-Paul-de-Vence (1966). Commissions poured in: for the Assy Baptistery in 1957, the cathedrals of Metz (1960) and Rheims (1974), the Hebrew University Medical Centre synagogue in Jerusalem (1960) and the Paris Opéra (1963). A painter-poet, celebrated by Apollinaire and Cendrars, Chagall brought back the forgotten dimension of metaphor into French formalism.

Marc Chagall