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

Le boucher

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Le boucher
signed 'Chagall' (lower right)
brush and ink on paper
8¾ x 11 1/8 in. (22.4 x 28.3 cm.)
Executed circa 1930
David McNeil (the artist's son), Paris, by descent from the artist (no. D 1503).
Acquired from the above by the present owners in 1987.
V. Rakitin, Chagall, Disegni inediti dalla Russia a Parigi, Milan, 1989, p. 128 (illustrated p. 129).
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. 54 (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.

Since his childhood, Chagall was fascinated by butchers and cows, and one of his earliest gouaches dated 1910 depicts the same subject (M 36; Private collection, Moscow). It recalls the young Marc's memories from his frequent visits to his grandfather's village, Lyozno, next to Vitebsk. Chagall gives a full account of his grandfather's activity as a butcher in My Life as he remembers a 'big-bellied cow' being slaughtered, 'the butcher, in black and white, knife in hand, is rolling up his sleeves. The prayer is hardly over before he holds her neck and runs the steel into her throat. Torrents of blood'. Intrigued by the animal, Chagall seems to have had compassion for the cow, 'And you, little cow, naked and crucified, you are dreaming in heaven. The glittering knife has raised you to the skies' (My Life, p. 20).

The present drawing, dated circa 1930, schematically drawn with genuine pen lines, captures the essence of the forthcoming action of slaughter. Whilst Chagall worked in his studio in Paris, 'La Ruche', he would often visit the slaughterhouse situated nearby, as would his fellow artist Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943). In his various versions of ox carcasses, Soutine also shares Chagall's interest in the animal's slaughter. Chagall's ink drawing echoes one of his compositions executed in 'La Ruche' entitled The Slaughterhouse of 1913-1914 (M 215; Private collection, California), a striking painting illustrating the violent death of cows which Chagall remembered so well.

Chagall painting a study for the Introduction to the Jewish Theatre, 1920. Archives Marc et Ida Chagall, Paris; © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London, 2007.

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