• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1995

    Impressionist And Modern Art Day Sale

    7 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 464

    Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

    Les fiancés sur fond bleu et gris

    Price Realised  


    Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
    Les fiancés sur fond bleu et gris
    signed 'Chagall' (lower right); signed again and dated 'Marc Chagall 1981' (on the reverse)
    tempera and pen and India ink on masonite
    23½ x 14 3/8 in. (59.7 x 36.5 cm.)
    Painted in 1981

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

    The central characters in many of Chagall's paintings are lovers or newlyweds, people caught up in the early excitement of love, who have abandoned themselves to love, and have completely surrendered themselves unto each other. For Chagall and his first wife Bella, who were married in 1915 and lived together for almost three decades, this experience of love took a shared intensity that appeared to never falter or fade.

    It came as a devastating blow to Chagall when Bella suffered an early and unnecessary death from a viral infection in 1944, while they were living in upstate New York during the Second World War. Penicillin could have saved her, but this new drug had been set aside solely for military use. Chagall's adoration for Bella grew even greater following her passing, and he continued to celebrate her impact on his life in many paintings. He had an extended liaison during the late 1940s and early 1950s with Virginia Haggard McNeil and fathered a son by her. He married again in 1952, this time to Valentine ("Vava") Brodsky, after a courtship that lasted only a few months. The pleasant reality of daily domestic intimacy, however, could never upstage the power of the mythic eternal moment that Chagall had created around the memory of Bella, or diminish those feelings now permanently fixed within the artist's mind, the central vault in the great storehouse of his boundless imagination. In the present painting, executed more than a quarter-century after Bella's death, Chagall and his beloved, unmarked by death or the passing of time, are betrothed again, floating in a heavenly blue sky. As Sidney Alexander has written:

    Chagall and Bella remained lovers, though married; monogamous but not monotonous; lovers to the end, in a story so felicitous as to offer little drama to the biographer or novelist. Out of this domestic Eden, lived and remembered, poured an endless series of painted epithalamia: Bella as goddess, Bella as Venus, Bella as Bathsheba; Bella as the Shulamite of the Song of Songs; Bella as bride in her sperm-spurting gown, a sex comet; Bella as a white whish of rocket soaring toward the moon Even after her death (when he was living with Virginia) whenever he painted a bride it was Bella; whenever he painted a bridal veil it referred to Bella (in Marc Chagall, A Biography, New York, 1978, p. 82).


    Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist).
    Anon. (acquired from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 9 November 2006, lot 435.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.