• Impressionist/Modern Works on  auction at Christies

    Sale 2312

    Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper Featuring Property from the Collection of Mrs Sidney F. Brody

    5 May 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 214

    Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

    Les arums blancs dans la barque

    Price Realised  


    Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
    Les arums blancs dans la barque
    signed and dated 'Marc Chagall 949' (lower right)
    gouache and pastel on paper
    30¾ x 23 in. (78.1 x 58.4 cm.)
    Executed in 1949

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    The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this gouache.

    First explored by Chagall in the early 1920s as a romantic extension to the symbolic vocabulary of the paintings depicting himself with his beloved wife Bella, the vase of flowers became a perennial theme in Chagall's art. "It was in Toulon in 1924, Chagall recalls, that the charm of French flowers first struck him. He claims he had not known bouquets of flowers in Russia--or at least they were not so common as in France... He said that when he painted a bouquet it was as if he was painting a landscape. It represented France to him. But the discovery was also a logical one in the light of the change taking place in his vision and pictorial interests. Flowers, especially mixed bouquets of tiny blossoms, offer a variety of delicate color combinations and a fund of texture contrasts which were beginning to hold Chagall's attention more and more" (J.J. Sweeney, Marc Chagall, New York, 1946, p. 56).

    In the present work Chagall has surrounded a bouquet of white arum lilies with a halo of blue, as if the flowers themselves are emanating the deep blue of the night sky. The heavenly, dreamlike feeling exuded by the work is underscored by this rich blue tonality Chagall favored during this period. "The eternal, transcendental blue reveals man's eternal longing for peace, security, eternity. It proceeds to the metaphysical realm where faith endows images with redeeming power" (R. Doschka, Marc Chagall zum 11. Geburtstag, exh. cat., Stadthalle, Balinger, 1986, p. 40).

    Although Chagall insisted throughout his career that it was not his intention to create paintings which were symbolic in nature, the autobiographical lexicon inherent in his works is certainly hard to ignore. Following Bella's untimely death in 1944, poignant images of her would continue to appear in Chagall's paintings and gouaches, serving as imagined reunions between the two lovers. This sensibility is apparent in the lower left of the composition where the lovers are depicted afloat in a small vessel. These characters, subtly rendered, are a thinly veiled reference to the painter's affection for his late wife and fervent belief that their bond would be eternal.


    Berggruen & Cie., Paris.
    Private collection (April 1974); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 16 November 1989, lot 241.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 17 November 1998, lot 447.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from a Private American Collection


    Paris, Galerie Maeght, Derrière le Miroire, March-April 1950, no. 17.