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    Sale 2046

    Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale

    6 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 218

    Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

    Fruits et fleurs à l'atelier

    Price Realised  


    Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
    Fruits et fleurs à l'atelier
    signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    21¼ x 25 5/8 in. (54 x 65 cm.)
    Painted in 1973

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

    Throughout his career, Chagall turned to the subject of the still life and the depiction of flowers in particular as a coded expression of romance. During his marriage to Bella Rosenfeld from 1915 until her death in 1944, the artist executed countless works of this genre to express his exuberance over the blissful state of their union. In the years following the passing of his beloved muse and throughout his second marriage to Valentina "Vava" Brodsky beginning in 1952, this genre continued to provide a means for the painter to express sentiments of contentment as well as reflect upon the ephemeral nature of life. The canvases and works on paper were nearly always marked by a wild proliferation of vivid blooms emanating from a central basket or vase, "offering a variety of delicate color combinations and a fund of texture contrasts" (J.J. Sweeney, Marc Chagall, New York, 1946, p. 56). Chagall had not encountered such flora in his homeland of Russia, and took pleasure throughout his career in rendering the wide variety of flowers and plants available to him surrounding his home in Provence, where he had lived with Vava since shortly after their marriage.

    The tradition of flower painting had originated in the Netherlands in the early 1600s, during a period of increased urbanization and wealth in Northern Europe. Still lifes featuring plants, fruit, and household items gained popularity as decorative works in the homes of prominent patrons. In their precise execution, these works were addressed to a cultivated audience who would be familiar with the various rare specimens of flora and other symbolic themes embedded within these canvases. In its execution, the present work bears little resemblance to its Northern European forebears; however, the subject of a vase of flowers alongside a basket overflowing with ripe fruit was one which was treated time and again during the seventeenth century, and was a theme of which Chagall was surely aware. Though executed in a rich, bold, joyful palette, the pears and oranges at the peak of their ripeness contained within the present work function like a 17th century memento mori: a reminder of the inevitability of life's eventual demise and a testament to the painter's enduring sorrow at the passing of his first wife.


    Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist, 1973).

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that a party with a financial interest may bidding on this lot.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of William and Eleanor Wood Prince, Chicago, Illinois


    New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Marc Chagall, Paintings, Gouaches, Sculpture, November-December 1973, p. 47, no. 15 (illustrated in color, p. 22).