Marc Chagall's Show-stopping Stage Curtain at Bonhams New York
"I painted bright walls! I painted musicians, dancers on stage! With blue, red, yellow. Play, sing, leap!" - Marc Chagall

New York – Many great artists have been fascinated by the world of the stage. Pablo Picasso, David Hockney and Marc Chagall to name a few have all designed sets and costumes for major opera and ballet productions in some of the world's greatest auditoria – Chagall went one step further, of course, famously decorating the ceiling of the Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Ballet. A stage curtain designed, created and painted by Marc Chagall for the Metropolitan Opera's 1967 production of Mozart's 'The Magic Flute' comes to Bonhams Impressionist and Modern Art sale in New York on Tuesday 17 November. It has an estimate of $250,000-450,000.

Chagall (1887-1985) was aged 77 when in September 1964, he met with Rudolf Bing, director of New York's Metropolitan Opera in Paris to discuss a production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Chagall was commissioned to design the sets and costumes. He worked on the project for three years, designing more than 120 costumes, 26 objects for the sets, and 13 backdrops measuring 20 meters high. To ensure a successful execution of his sketches, Chagall discussed every detail of the costumes and scenery with the Russian designer, Volodia Odinokov.

The Finale curtain was created for the final triumphant scene of the opera and evokes a world of lyrical childhood memories – a ritual music scene, the figures embodying the archetypal characters seen throughout Chagall's work. The whirlwind composition radiates with the most well-known of his iconography: trumpeting angels, fantastical animals playing instruments, floating violins, cellos, and dancers.

Bonhams Director, Impressionist & Modern Art, US, Molly Ott Ambler said: "The Magic Flute (Finale) is a brilliant visual story and a perfect reflection of the final act – a tumultuous composition of musicians, dancers, and imaginary animals – all vibrating outward in a dominating swirl of red with vivid white, yellow, blues and greens. The magical vibrancy of Chagall's color palette, imbued with spiritual symbolism and rich visual imagery, was the ideal complement to the beauty of Mozart's opera."

The sale also includes Wassily Kandinsky. Einige Spitzen (Several Points)

This major work by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky entitled Einige Spitzen (Several Points) was painted in 1925 and encapsulates the artist's formal and philosophical ideals of this period. At the time, Kandinsky was teaching at The Bauhaus, the school established in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar and founded on the radical concept of dissolving the distinction between the fine arts and the applied arts. At various times Kandinsky taught courses in mural painting, design, analytical drawing, and advanced theory, but because of the light teaching schedule was able to devote much of his time to his own research and projects.

Einige Spitzen is an outstanding example of Kandinsky's hallmark amalgam of science, mathematics, spirituality, and sentiment. He had begun to experiment with combining geometric elements with organically derived forms in his paintings in 1919. Building compositions from geometric form emptied of symbolism allowed him to avoid indicating any concrete subject or meaning. He often titled paintings after a repeating form or predominant color to focus the viewer on pure abstraction.

Molly Ott Ambler said: "Einige Spitzen illuminates Kandinsky's intensive yet uninhibited exploration of line, color, shape, geometry underpinned by rigorous scholarly theory and research as well as deep emotion. Its jubilant arcs and harmoniously layered shapes and colors are imbued with the forward-looking optimism of the Bauhaus and the artist."

Other highlights include:

Faunesse debout, version au rocher simple by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Conceived in 1884, this bronze version cast is one of an edition of 8 by the Musée Rodin in 1961. The statue is based on the figure of The Faunesse in the tympanum of Rodin's massive unfinished masterpiece The Gates of Hell. Estimate: US$120,000-180,000.

Deux odalisques by Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Executed in 1928. In the decades following his seminal trip to Morocco in the 1910s, Matisse would paint and draw odalisques and other scenes referring to the ideal exoticism of the Near-Eastern Orient. The graceful, luxurious figure of the odalisque would become one of the most emblematic motifs in Matisse's oeuvre. Estimate: US$100,000-150,00.


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