MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
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MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)

Les mariés au cirque

MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
Les mariés au cirque
stamped with signature 'Marc Chagall' (lower left)
oil and brush and India ink on canvas
9 ½ x 13 in. (24 x 33 cm.)
Painted circa 1965
Estate of the artist.
Acquired by the present owners, by 1998.
New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Marc Chagall, March-May 1998.
New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Marc Chagall, July-November 2012.
Further details
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

The circus first became one of Chagall's major themes during his early years in Paris, under the influence of the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. After sponsoring the project on the Fables de La Fontaine, resulting in one hundred exquisite gouaches between 1926 and 1927, Vollard suggested that he undertake a series of circus subjects, intended to form a portfolio of etchings. To encourage his observation of the circus, Vollard made his private box at the Cirque d'Hiver available to Chagall, who spent hours watching and sketching the performance of trained horses, flying acrobats and melancholic clowns.
Intrigued by the poetic quality of this transient universe which echoed the folklore of his childhood, Chagall embraced the circus in his art, joining a long and distinguished line of painters who featured the circus in their work, including Edgar Degas, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger.
In Le mariés au cirque, the theme permeates the entire composition, from the audience framing the ring and to the trapeze artist and the juggling clown. But the intimacy between the couple, depicted atop an emerald green circus horse, draws the viewer into another recurrent theme of Chagall's pictorial universe: the nuptial scene. Like the paradox inherent in the circus between the bright colors, sounds, joy, and the palpable drama, tension and sorrows is the contrast in the picture between the setting of the audience-filled stands and the couple's attitude, as if unconscious of their own presence at the center of the ring.
The artist here assumes the role of the groom, as he admires his bride, who symbolizes his beloved first wife Bella. The proximity of the two characters, protected and cut off from the exuberance of the circus as in a bubble relates to the comfort of loving and being loved in return, in which one may find refuge from the aggression of a chaotic world. This magical and soothing bond, experienced for many years by Chagall, was severed when, fleeing from Europe and the war in 1941. Bella died a few days after contracting influenza in New York. For Chagall in the post-war years, the strength and comfort of love was more poignant than ever. He recreated it in his work from the death of Bella to the end of his life, through paintings representing lovers in their shared inner world.

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