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

Mariés à l'ange rouge

MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
Mariés à l'ange rouge
signed and dated 'Chagall 1932' (lower left)
oil on canvas
46.2 x 27 cm. (18 1⁄4 x 10 5⁄8 in.)
Painted in 1932
Galerie Moderne, Paris
James Vigeveno Galleries, Los Angeles
Private collection, Chicago, acquired from the above in 1955; Estate sale, Christie's New York, 8 November 1995, lot 217
Private collection, Europe, acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie's New York, 4 November 2010, lot 453
Private collection, Europe, acquired at the above sale; sale, Sotheby's New York, 5 November 2014, lot 154
Landau Fine Art, Montreal
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2016
Kunsthalle Basel, Marc Chagall, November - December 1933, no. 102
Chicago, Wally Findlay Galleries, Important Loan Exhibition to Benefit the Scholarship Fund, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings by Chagall, Utrillo, Valaminck, 1961, no. 4 (titled Jewish Bride)
Further details
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

'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.'——Marc Chagall

Painted in 1932, Marc Chagall’s Mariés à l’ange rouge is a tender depiction of romantic love. For the artist, love was, and remained throughout his career, both his central subject and raison d'être. As he explained, ‘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’ (M. Chagall quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 179).

Such a sense of love’s possibility is evident in the present work in which the couple–Chagall and his bride, Bella Chagall, née Rosenfeld–are shown high above the rooftops of a small town, the artist’s native Vitebsk. Mariés à l’ange rouge represents their first embrace as newlyweds. A bright moon illuminates their faces as an angel soars above holding a candle aloft. Music seems to fill the painting as a violinist plays his instrument. At the feet of the couple lies a bouquet of blooming flowers, a recurrent image for the artist. Although lavish, under Chagall’s hand, the blossoms have multiple significances: As Susan Compton noted, ‘A bouquet of flowers [is] the archetypal gift for a lover to bring. Yet cut flowers are ephemeral: through man’s artifice their beauty is arranged momentarily. So in these themes the artist reminds us of the impermanence as well as the ecstasy of human love’ (S. Compton, Chagall, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, p. 212). Such emotional juxtaposition is palpable in Mariés à l’ange rouge in which the couple gaze at one another both with optimism and, aware of the vows they have just recited, intensity.

For Chagall, the figure of the bride was always his wife Bella. The two had met one afternoon, decades earlier, in September 1909, and it was love at first sight for the young artist. Chagall later wrote that he felt ‘she [had] known me always, my childhood, my future; as if she were watching over me, diving my innermost being, though this is the first time I [had] seen her. I knew this [was] she, my wife’ (M. Chagall quoted in J. Wullschlager, Chagall: Love and Exile, London, 2008, p. 89). The two were married six years later, on 25 July 1915, and Bella would become an essential in Chagall’s oeuvre, representing youth, love, tenderness, and, following her death in 1944, the past.

Nostalgia, for both people and places, fascinated Chagall. Although he and his family had departed Russia in 1922 – settling first in Berlin before moving to France – he never truly left Vitebsk behind. Franz Meyer observed that, during the 1930s, ‘new themes and motifs appear, expressing the gravity of Chagall's mood at the time, his deeper interest in Jewish affairs, and the preoccupation with religion revealed in the Bible etchings,’ a suite which he was working on contemporaneous to Mariés à l’ange rouge (F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, New York, 1963, p. 409). His iconography took inspiration from a variety of religious and folkloric traditions, theatre, politics, and even the circus, a highly personal amalgamation which can be seen in Les Fiancés. The violinist, for example, was a frequent feature of Chagall’s youth in Vitebsk, where music was integral to religious celebrations, weddings, and other festivities, while the angel seems drawn from other spiritual traditions.

Though rendered from a myriad of hues, Mariés à l’ange rouge is dominated by an inky, nocturnal blue, suggestive of a poetic fantasy world. E. T described the colour as ‘the azure into which the most beautiful dreams disappeared, as they took on defined forms’ (E. Tériade, ‘Chagall and the Romantic Painting’, 1926 reproduced in op. cit., 1995, p.145). Wrapped in this velvety shade, the titular couple stand at the boundary of past and future, reality and imaginary. They channel dreams of their shared life and memories of what once was.

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