Marc Chagall (Russian/French, 1887-1985) L'Écuyère bleu au coq rouge
Lot 34
Marc Chagall (1887-1995) L'Écuyère bleu au coq rouge
Sold for £84,000 (US$ 140,522) inc. premium
Lot Details
Marc Chagall (1887-1995)
L'Écuyère bleu au coq rouge
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower right)
brush, black ink, wash, gouache, pastel on paper
37.5 x 28.2cm (14 3/4 x 11 1/8in).
Executed in 1973


    Lord Yehudi, Menuhin, Gstaad.
    Thence by descent to the previous owner.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 6 February 2002, lot 212.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    This work is sold with a photo-certificate of authenticity from the Comité Chagall dated, Saint-Paul, le 21 Novembre 2001, no.2 001 075.

    "For me a circus is a magic show that appears and disappears like a world. A circus is disturbing. It is profound" (Chagall, quoted in Chagall: A Retrospective, J. Baal-Teshuva (ed.), Westport, 1995, p.196).

    Chagall grew up within a working-class Jewish family in the village of Vitibsk in Russia, but it was France that became his home thereafter. From Russia, he took memories of childhood, his Jewish upbringing and the nostalgia of Russian folk stories and from France he opened his mind to the fantasy of the Surrealists, the compositional techniques of the Cubists and the Fauvist use of colour. These influences correlate in this late circus painting.

    After receiving an honorary doctorate at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1965, Marc Chagall made a highly personal speech wherein he clarified his recognition of colour in everything. He reflected on visiting museums in Russia when he was a young man and reminisced that he could only ever see the colour in the paintings he observed – never the style; even in the Old Masters, he could only see colour (quoted in Art Journal, vol.XXIV, no.4, p.348). This key memory goes some way to explain Chagall's endeavours to use relatively pure, primary colour, but additionally it has been noted that the paintings produced later in his life (such as this), use vivid colour for "both tonal and atmospheric" reasons. (The Burlington Magazine, vol.CXXVII, no.984, p.178)

    This circus painting proves Chagall's skill for being able to translate emotional sensations using colour, in correlation with symbolism. The transitory nature of the circus was always of interest to Chagall, but it is the saturation of red paint used to depict the cockerel in this composition that is most notable. Set against the largely blue hues of the remainder of the composition, the rooster motif takes on a sense of three-dimensionality and leaves little question about its importance to the painting. The cockerel was a highly emotive symbol of the female lover throughout Chagall's career and evidences Chagall's knowledge of Freudian concepts alongside the wider Surrealist group (as observed by A. Gilroy and T. Dalley (eds.), Pictures at an Exhibition, 1985, p.50). The use of the cockerel represents the Freudian'displacement' concept whereby an innocent visual object is used to hide something far more emotionally charged; in this case, a cockerel is used to symbolise the female lover in a fly-by-night fantasy.

    After accepting his aforementioned doctorate Chagall visited the university art department, and in his parting words of advice to the art students he urged them to be themselves above everything else. Perhaps it is this philosophy that endeared Chagall to the groundbreaking violinist Lord Yahudi Menuhin, who previously owned this painting.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the dates for Marc Chagall are 1887-1985.
  1. Deborah Allan
    Specialist - Impressionist and Modern Art
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