Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Property from a Private New York Collection Christie's is delighted to present the following works from a Private New York Collection. Lovingly assembled by a husband and wife team over the past decade, this far ranging collection is comprised of several works of exceptional quality, including a sumptuous pastel of a nude by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (see Evening Sale lot 27), and the present works on paper by Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. An important, early, Fauve painting by Louis Valtat of the artist's wife sitting on the rocks on the coast of the South of France (see Day Sale lot 340) is a highlight of the collection, and held pride of place in the owner's grand sitting room. The resulting collection is a tribute to the owners' eye, and deep interest in choosing the best of many fields.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Amoureux sous un bouquet

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Amoureux sous un bouquet
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower left)
watercolor, pastel and pencil on paper laid down on board
30 x 21 7/8 in. (76.2 x 55.5 cm.)
Executed in 1945
Kleeman Galleries, New York.
Richard and Dorothy Rogers, New York (acquired from the above, January 1950); Estate sale, Christie's, New York, 11 November 1992, lot 15.
Meridian Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owners, March 2006.
Sale room notice
Please note this work was executed in 1945.

Lot Essay

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

Amoureux sous un bouquet combines two distinct elements in Chagall's personal iconography that came to encapsulate his idea of romantic love: the amorous couple and the rich bouquet of flowers. Both themes had occupied Chagall throughout his career, with the former swiftly becoming an extension to the symbolic vocabulary of the paintings depicting himself with his beloved wife Bella. Amoureux sous un bouquet serves as a pictorial representation of Chagall's belief in the idea of love, which for him was both motivation and motif.

In 1948, the year the present work was painted, Chagall returned to France from his wartime exile in America with a new family. In September 1944 Bella had unexpectedly died in a New York hospital of complications from a viral infection, and during the following year Chagall met Virginia Haggard McNeil, a woman twenty-eight years his junior. Virginia, who was mired in an unsatisfactory marriage, later recalled they were both "starved." She soon became pregnant, and their son David was born in June 1946. Chagall continued to paint Bella as the eternal bride, goddess and muse in his pictures, however, and during the seven years he lived with Virginia he often mingled the images of Bella and Virginia, who represented in his imagination the spiritual and sensual aspects of love.

In the present watercolor, the great spray of flowers appears to emanate from the couple, amplifying their presence and giving rise to an ecstatic expression of their love and joy. The explosion of color that so often characterizes his bouquets allowed 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, emblematic of the richness of his palette. Here the blooms are presented as effervescent bursts of intense color, perfectly demonstrating why Pablo Picasso remarked of Chagall: "some of the last things he's done in Vence convince me that there's never been anybody since Renoir who has the feeling for light that Chagall has" (quoted in F. Gilot and C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 282). In Amoureux sous un bouquet this mastery is visible in the play between the bright hues of the flowers heightened by the resonant luminosity of the nocturnal interior.

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