• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2166

    Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper

    7 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 146

    Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

    Talmudiste endormi

    Price Realised  


    Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
    Talmudiste endormi
    signed and dated 'Marc Chagall 1943' (lower right)
    oil, gouache, watercolor, pastel, charcoal and brush and black ink on paper
    26¾ x 19 5/8 in. (68 x 50 cm.)
    Executed in 1943

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Talmudiste endormi is a powerfully philosophical and spiritual work, rooted firmly in Chagall's memories of his Hassidic Jewish upbringing in Vitebsk, the figure's similarity to his father recalling his loving and devout family life. Unlike the celebratory paintings of gravity defying figures of his later work, the bearded man in Talmudiste endormi is firmly earthbound. Huddled against a vast snowy terrain, his introspective pose severs him from the world in an internal communication with God. Clutching a Bible to his body, his head reverently bowed, he sits in solemn contemplation of the sacred text, while far off in the distance a temple and houses of a village peek above the horizon. His detachment from the village can be seen to represent the Jew in exile, a figure longing for the far off lands of Israel.

    The bearded man, attired in the long dark coat and Kashkel cap typically worn by Jews in Chagall's native Belarus, is a recurrent presence in his paintings, paying tribute to his beloved homeland and the Jewish culture that shaped him. The religious overtones in Chagall's work were repeated throughout the 1930s and 1940s and the man's somber reflective posture in Talmudiste endormi, eyes closed and isolated in prayer and set under a dark wintry sky, are clearly derived from his painting Solitude of 1933, housed in the Tel Aviv Museum. Chagall once stated "If I were not a Jew, I wouldn't have been an artist, or I would have been a different artist altogether" (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 170). Talmudiste endormi is both a universal symbol of the Jewish faith as well a personal remembrance of his profound connection to the native lands from which he was now an exile.


    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 12 May 1987, lot 209.
    Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva.
    Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1988.

    Saleroom Notice

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

    Pre-Lot Text