The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
Chagall cherished France, his adopted home, for the phenomenon he called lumière-liberté. Everywhere in Paris and the countryside, he perceived, “hovered that astonishing light of freedom which I had seen nowhere else. And this light, reborn as art, passed easily into the canvasses of the great French masters” (in B. Harshaw, ed., Marc Chagall on Art and Culture, Stanford, 2003, p. 88). When he returned to France in 1923 from the dire, dangerous conditions he and his family had endured in revolutionary Russia, he celebrated lumière-liberté as a joyous renewal of creative possibilities—a paradise regained—in a series of sumptuous floral paintings, a subject to which he was continually drawn for the rest of his life.
“Marc Chagall loved flowers,” André Verdet wrote in 1985. “He delighted in their aroma, in contemplating their colors. For a long time, certainly after he moved for good to the South of France, there were always flowers in his studio. In his work bouquets of flowers held a special place...Usually they created a sense of joy, but they could also reflect the melancholy of memories, the sadness of separations, of solitude, if not suffering and tragedy” (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 347).
Nowhere did Chagall savor the inspiration of lumière-liberté more intensely than in the Midi. In 1950 he purchased the villa "La Colline" on the road between Vence and St. Jeannet. Sixteen years later the artist and his second wife Vava moved into a specially renovated residence and studio he called "La Colline," in nearby Saint-Paul. Le grand bouquet is an arrangement of roses and sunflowers set atop a table on the second floor balcony of "La Colline," overlooking Vence, viewed through the large open windows of his studio. The exuberant splendor of this floral display, further amplified in the artist’s imagination, dwarfs Vava, who stands nearby.
In 1977, the year before Chagall painted this rapturous conception of lumière-liberté, the French government celebrated the occasion of the artist’s 90th birthday by awarding him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, the highest award it may bestow on anyone who is not a head of state. Special celebrations were held throughout France, including gala concerts and television programs. Pope Paul VI sent a congratulatory message. In October, President Giscard d’Estaing inaugurated a Chagall exhibition at the Louvre, only the third time in the history of this institution that this honor had been granted to a living artist, following the precedent accorded Braque and Picasso. Having become the doyen of the legendary early modernists, Chagall ultimately outlived them all. Like Picasso before him, he worked until the very end.