Marc Chagall (1887-1985) Les mariés sur fond de la Tour Eiffel 24 x 19 5/8 in (61 x 50 cm) (Painted circa 1982-83)

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Lot 34
Marc Chagall
Les mariés sur fond de la Tour Eiffel 24 x 19 5/8 in (61 x 50 cm)

Sold for US$ 751,500 inc. premium

Impressionist & Modern Art

16 Nov 2016, 16:00 EST

New York

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Les mariés sur fond de la Tour Eiffel
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower left and again to the reverse)
oil on canvas
24 x 19 5/8 in (61 x 50 cm)
Painted circa 1982-83


  • Provenance
    Valentina (Vava) Brodsky Chagall, the artist's wife, Saint-Paul de Vence.
    Private Collection, California.
    James Goodman Gallery, New York.
    Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 2003).

    Moscow, Pushkin Museum, Chagall Centennial, September 1987.
    Moscow, Centre of Arts, Marc Chagall: Paintings, Graphics, 2002, no. 32.

    I. Antonova, A. Voznesensky and M. Bessonova (eds.), Chagall Discovered, From Russian & Private Collections, New York, 1988, no. 85 (illustrated p. 130).

    The Comité Chagall has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work.

    'I think that only love and uncalculated devotion towards others will lead to the greatest harmony in life and in art which humanity has been dreaming of for so long. And this must, of course, be included in each utterance, in each brushstroke, and in each color.' (Marc Chagall quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva (ed.), Chagall. A Retrospective, Westport, 1995, p. 208).

    Love and marriage are central to Chagall's work and stand as the most prominent theme in the rich tapestry of life and human emotion that is woven through his oeuvre. He married his first love, Bella Rosenfeld, in 1915. He had been immediately struck by this young Belarusian writer, declaring after their first meeting 'Her silence is mine, her eyes are mine. It is as if she knows everything about my childhood, my present, my future, as if she can see right through me.' (op. cit. p. 44). Their happy marriage however came to a tragic and premature end when Bella died from a viral infection in 1944 during their wartime exile in the United States. The loss was devastating for Chagall and, following the Second World War, his almost obsessive depiction of lovers is often described as a homage to Bella and their enduring love: 'Bella as goddess, Bella as Venus, Bella as Bathsheba... Bella as a white whish of rocket soaring toward the moon. Even after her death, whenever he painted a bride it was Bella" (S. Alexander, Marc Chagall, A Biography, New York, 1978, p. 82).

    In Les mariés sur fond de la tour Eiffel, Chagall imbues his bride with new life. Taking precedence in the composition she is positioned centrally, resplendent in white, while by comparison her artist lover appears less animated, fading into the background under veils of translucent blue. Suffused by deep sapphire tones throughout, the composition describes a moment of intimacy for the lovers under the crepuscular shimmering of a rising crescent moon. The presence of the cockerel, a symbol of fertility in Chagall's iconography, reinforces the quiet union of the couple as they gently clasp hands and gaze into each other's eyes.

    With the Eiffel Tower clearly visible to the upper left, Les mariés sur fond de la tour Eiffel seems to look back to the Paris Series, a cycle of large paintings that Chagall had begun in the year of his marriage in 1952 to Valentine Brodsky, known as Vava. Their meeting just a few months previously was a decisive moment in Chagall's life and work. It inspired new creative energy and exuberance and no doubt drove the series, which was to occupy the artist for the following two years. The compositions were inspired by a sequence of sketches that Chagall had completed just after the end of the Second World War featuring notable Paris landmarks such as the Panthéon, the Champs Elysées and Notre-Dame. These celebrated monuments held particular significance in the post-war environment, and particularly for Chagall, as emblems of re-birth. His home town of Vitebsk had been destroyed in the war and Paris had now become a new backdrop for his whimsical, dream-like universe, 'the Paris of which I dreamed in America' Chagall later explained 'I rediscovered enriched by new life, as if I had to be born again, dry my tears and start crying again. Absence, war, suffering were all needed for that to awaken in me and become the frame for my thoughts and my life. But that is only possible for one who can keep his roots. To keep the earth on one's roots and find another earth, that is a real miracle.' (Chagall quoted in F. Meyer, Marc Chagall Life and Work, New York, 1964, p. 529).

    This new setting also allowed Chagall to imagine his beloved Bella enveloped by the romantic city where they had spent precious time together in the years before the war. Yet by referencing Paris in his works from the early 1950s until the end of his career Chagall also bore testimony to his belief in regeneration and new beginnings in face of loss. By the time he painted the present work, Chagall had been living contentedly with Vava in the South of France for nearly three decades.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985) Les mariés sur fond de la Tour Eiffel 24 x 19 5/8 in (61 x 50 cm) (Painted circa 1982-83)
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