Marc CHAGALL (1887-1985)

Lot 130
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100 000 - 120 000 EUR
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Result : 510 400 EUR

Marc CHAGALL (1887-1985)

Les deux chèvres (Fables de la Fontaine), circa 1927
Gouache, signed below to the right
49.5 x 40.5 cm (on view) - 50 x 41 cm (the leaf)

Provenance: Private
collection, Paris

- La Fontaine par Chagall, Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, Paris, February 10 - 21, 1930, N°10 of the

Bibliography exhibition:
- Marc Chagall by Franz Meyer, Flammarion, Paris, 1964, N°419
- Catalogue of the exhibition Marc Chagall Les Fables de La Fontaine, Musée d'Art Moderne, Céret, 28 October 1995 - 8 January 1996 and Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, 15 January
- 25 March 1996, work reprinted on the occasion of the exhibition Chagall connu et inconnu, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 11 March - 23 June 2003, Éditions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1995, mentioned on page 130 with as indication: Current location unknown

A certificate N°2019106 from the Chagall Committee dated 15 October 2019 will be given to the buyer

"One of my most tenacious ambitions as a publisher had been to publish the Fables de La Fontaine with dignity. It was the Russian painter Marc Chagall I asked for the illustration of the book. We did not understand this choice of a Russian painter to interpret the most French of our poets. However, it was precisely because of the fabulist's oriental sources that I had thought of an artist whose origins and culture made this prestigious Orient familiar. My expectations were not disappointed: Chagall made a hundred dazzling gouaches. So remembers Ambroise Vollard, the famous art dealer who, in 1925, entrusted Marc Chagall with this project.

"The artist creates about a hundred gouaches in colour to prepare the black and white engraving work, drawing inspiration from his Russian culture and the richness of the French landscapes. Much more than an editorial project, this commission is for Marc Chagall a passport to France, which inscribes it and roots it in the steps of French artists and writers. During the creation of the gouaches, his wife Bella reads the Fables to him aloud, speaking to his imagination and inspiration. The death of Ambroise Vollard in 1937 interrupted the publication of the book, which was not published until 1952, at the initiative of Tériade.

... Marc Chagall... delivers his dreamlike and personal vision of the Fables, nourished by the snow-covered landscapes of Vitebsk and by an animism inherited from the Hassidic traditions of Eastern Europe, punctuated by the colours and atmospheres of Brittany, Auvergne and southern France." Sources: Internet Amber Gauthier.

It was therefore at Ambroise Vollard's request that between 1926 and 1927 Chagall made a hundred gouaches to illustrate the fables of La Fontaine. The preface to the reissue of the catalogue of the Céret and Nice exhibition (opus cited above) states "As early as 1928, the colour edition, initially planned by Vollard, failed following unsatisfactory tests. Chagall then engraves plates for prints. Some prints of engravings are made, but the editorial project of Les Fables with texts and images does not result either.... It was at this time[late 1950, early 1951] that Chagall began to recover the one hundred plates he had engraved in 1929 and 1930. Their edition, in two volumes in-folio, with the texts of Les Fables, was produced by André Tériade in 1952... These one hundred gouaches were made in 1926 - 1927, exhibited in three points in Europe (Paris, Brussels and Berlin) in 1930, all sold at the end of these three exhibitions, to almost as many collectors as there are gouaches... After the mid-1950s, the publication of this edition and the attention paid to it by critics obscured the gouaches themselves, whose memory seemed to have been lost. Some of them appear, exceptionally, in exhibitions."

The conclusion of this preface clearly mentions the difficulty encountered in setting up this exhibition: "This gathering was initially intended to be exhaustive, but the extreme dispersion of gouaches in the hands of collectors of drawings, little known to the museum world, and the limited presence of works in this series in public collections, did not make it possible to locate more... However, there remain thirty gouaches, which we will not see in this publication or in the exhibition we are organizing[including these two goats] and which have not appeared in any public sale since their presentation in Berlin in April 1930[as well as in Paris and Brussels]. What happened to them? Lost? Destroyed? No colour photograph is likely to help the researcher visualize the chromatic inventions they inspired in Chagall; only the engravings will make it possible to identify them..."

This extraordinary gouache presented in this session is therefore one of the missing links... a rediscovery that allows us today to appreciate, compared to its black engraving, the audacity of its colors.

As soon as two goats have grazed,...... Nothing can stop this climbing animal... A stream meets, and for bridge a plank.... Nose to nose, our adventurers, Who, both being very proud, Towards the middle of the bridge did not want to give in to each other....
Jean de La Fontaine
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