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Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Property from a Distinguished Collector
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Les amoureaux au Cap-Ferrat

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Les amoureaux au Cap-Ferrat
signed and dated 'Marc Chagall 1949' (lower left)
gouache, pastel and brush and black ink over pencil on paper laid down on board
22 ¾ x 31 ¼ in. (57.8 x 79.5 cm.)
Executed in 1949
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (acquired from the artist).
Mrs. Herbert Steinmann, Woodmere, New York (acquired from the above, 1949).
Galerie Berggruen et Cie., Paris.
Steckmest collection (acquired from the above, 1974); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 6 November 1991, lot 35.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Lucerne, Galerie Rosengart, Marc Chagall, July-October 1949, no. 26 (titled St-Jean Cap Ferrat).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

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

In January 1949, Chagall and his companion Virginia McNeil headed south to the Mediterranean, at the suggestion of the Greek-born printer and publisher Tériade. Chagall often received invitations from his friend to visit Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, where Tériade lived for half of each year. Chagall and McNeil took a rooms in the pension Lou Mas de la Mer with views of the harbor and fishing boats. Tériade lived nearby and he constantly regaled Chagall and his companion with local wines and delicacies. The impact of these lush surroundings resonates in the gouaches the artist painted during his time there.
Chagall and Virginia had a glorious time in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the artist became infatuated with the Côte d’Azur, an area which had already attracted many artists: Pablo Picasso lived in nearby Vallauris and Henri Matisse lived in Vence until 1948 and thereafter in Cimiez, near Nice. As a result, Chagall could often be found hard at work. “Marc excitedly brought out his gouaches and his large sheets of pure chiffon paper. It was fun to have him working right in our bedroom, spreading his paintings out on the white cotton bedspread,” Virginia wrote. “An explosion of new ideas was suddenly released at the sight of the Mediterranean... His store of ‘Chagall’ material was jolted and injected with new substance, producing a series of variations around a theme...the sea, the boats and flowers of St. Jean tumbled out in exuberant succession. He never worked his gouaches so richly. He invented a mixture of media, obtaining depth and luster by adding touches of oil pastel, and playing with the antagonistic elements of oil and water to produce unexpected textures” (My Life with Chagall, New York, 1986, pp. 89-90).
Chagall is not often thought of as a painter of landscapes, yet many of the paintings in his oeuvre are rooted in a sense of place that is specifically related to the human, animal and floral motifs that he depicts. The artist may paint the snowy vastness and ghettos of his native Russia, views of metropolitan Paris, or the mountainous scenery of the French Alps; but invariably he uses landscape as a stage on which he places his characters and allows them to interact. In the present work Chagall shows the quiet bay around Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and at the same time depicts the timeless elements of the Mediterranean world. A crescent moon hugs the horizon line above a luminous blue universe where the sea mingles with the sky. Chagall's lovers meet outside of an open window, the woman recumbent on a bed of flowers awaiting a goodnight kiss, all in dreamlike state that is emphasized by her upturned head.
The rich, pervasive blue which appears in Chagall's paintings after the war no doubt owes much to the ultramarine splendor of the Mediterranean world. This radiant blue, which recalls the luminosity of stained glass, refers on one hand to the theme of sadness and mourning, but also reflects an experience of peace and serenity. "The eternal, transcendental Chagallesque 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 100. Geburtstag, exh. cat., Stadthalle, Balinger, 1986, p. 40).

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