Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Les roses et la lune

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Les roses et la lune
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower right)
gouache, watercolor, pastel and brush and India ink on paper laid down on canvas
24 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (63.1 x 50.4 cm.)
Executed in 1950
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (acquired from the artist).
Martin and Rosalie Butzel, Detroit (acquired from the above, 1951).
Private collection (by descent from the above); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 9 May 2001, lot 389.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Kunsthaus Zurich and Kunsthalle Bern, Chagall, 1950-1951, no. 96 (Zurich) and no. 91 (Bern).

Lot Essay

The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
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 are nearly always marked by a wild proliferation of vivid blooms emanating from a central basket or vase.

Executed in 1950, Les roses et la lune is a pictorial representation of Chagall's belief in the idea of love, which for him was both motivation and motif. As he explained in 1958, "In it lies the true Art: from it comes my technique, my religion... All other things are a sheer waste of energy, waste of means, waste of life, of time... Art, without Love--whether we are ashamed or not to use that well-known word--such a plastic art would open the wrong door" (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 179).

The explosion of color that often characterizes his bouquets allows Chagall to manipulate dramatic contrasts and subtle harmonies with aplomb, particularly when, as in the present work, he sets his flowers against a striking background of deep blue. The heavenly, dreamlike feeling exuded by Les roses et la lune is underscored by this rich blue tonality favored by Chagall 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).

The present gouache was painted when Chagall had just moved to Vence, a medieval town on the Côte d'Azur which had emerged as a thriving artistic center since the Second World War. The years after Chagall settled into the halcyon rhythms of life in southern France were, in his words, "a bouquet of roses" (quoted in S. Alexander, Marc Chagall: A Biography, New York, 1978, p. 492).

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