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


Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
signed 'Chagall' (lower right)
brush and ink on paper
8 1/8 x 5 1/8 in. (20.8 x 13 cm.)
Executed circa 1925
David McNeil (the artist's son), Paris, by descent from the artist (no. D 2550).
Acquired from the above by the present owners in 1987.
V. Rakitin, Chagall, Disegni inediti dalla Russia a Parigi, Milan, 1989, p. 110 (ill. p. 111).
Milan, Studio Marconi, Marc Chagall, Disegni inediti dalla Russia a Parigi, May - July 1988; this exhibition later travelled to Turin, Galleria della Sindone, Palazzo Reale, Dec. 1990 - Mar. 1991.
Catania, Monastero dei Benedettini, Oct.- Nov. 1994; Meina, Museo e centro studi per il disegno, June - Aug. 1996.
Hannover, Sprengel Museum, Marc Chagall, "Himmel und Erde", Dec. 1996 - Feb. 1997.
Darmstadt, Institut Mathildenhöhe, Marc Chagall, Von Russland nach Paris, Zeichnungen 1906-1967, Dec. 1997 - Jan. 1998.
Abbazia Olivetana, Fondazione Ambrosetti, Marc Chagall, Il messaggio biblico, May - July 1998.
Klagenfurt, Stadtgalerie, Marc Chagall, Feb.- May 2000, p. 52 (ill.).
Florida, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Chagall, Jan.- Mar. 2002.
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Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate from David McNeil.

Chagall, as several other artists, often identified himself with the clown or the acrobat throughout his oeuvre. As Jean Clair writes in his introduction to the exhibition The Great Parade: Portrait of the Artist as Clown (Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, March - May 2004 and Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, June - September 2004), if 'man was the first of the primates to walk upright, he was also the first acrobat' and deducts that 'to go to the circus is to go back to our origins. For there reigns the silence of a world in which man did not yet speak' (Clair, p. 21). Chagall's continual quest for his origins therefore coincides with Clair's definition of the circus.
In this expressive portrait of a clown, Chagall selects the most characteristic lines to define his figure, that of the rosy cheeks, the frilly collar and the pointed ears of his hat. Jean Clair points out that the travelling circus performer, such as the clown, was often associated to the myth of the wandering Jew (Clair, p. 30), linking Chagall's Hassidic roots and his exiled life with portraying himself as a circus performer. Chagall has clearly expressed his fascination with clowns, struck by the undercurrent of tragedy in their eyes: 'I have always regarded clowns, acrobats and actors as beings of tragic humanity, to my mind they resemble the figures in certain religious paintings (...)'.

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