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

Le clown à la mandoline

Details
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Le clown à la mandoline
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower left); signed, dated and dedicated 'Pour Vava bon anniversaire Marc Chagall' and 'Marc Chagall 74-1975' (on the reverse)
oil, gouache and india ink on canvas
31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in. (81 x 65 cm.)
Painted in 1975
Provenance
The artist's estate.
Vava Chagall, by descent from the above.
A gift from the above to the present owner.
Exhibited
Paris, Musée du Louvre, Pavillion de Flore, Marc Chagall, peintures récentes 1967-1977, October 1977 - January 1978, no. 44 (illustrated).
Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Marc Chagall a Palazzo Pitti, dipinti 1967-1977, January - September 1978, no. 42 (illustrated).
Moscow, Pushkin Museum, Chagall, collections russes et collections privées, 1987.
Fécamp, Palais Bénédictine, Chagall, le pays de mon âme, June - September 2004, p. 81 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.


Painted in 1975, Le clown à la mandoline is a scene of movement, of celebration, of life. Chagall presents us with a whimsical vision of a dream-like world in which the real and the imagined appear to intermingle and interbreed. While on the ground, most of the performers appear to be plausible, in the gods are strange visions including a musician riding a chicken. The bold colours, including the magical blue, give a sense of mystery, of night, and yet also provide a perfect backdrop for Chagall's love of colour. Indeed, the means by which he has used this blue to thrust the other colours, especially the reds, into bold relief reflect his concurrent design of stained glass windows. This oneiric vision itself is filled with a colour that appears to project light into the world of the viewer.

An artist profoundly affected by nostalgia, haunted by memories of his homeland, and yet filled with love and joy for the world, Chagall turned increasingly to the circus as a theme. Indeed, it became one of his most favoured motifs. This was in part due to the strange status that the circus had for Chagall. The figures on the trapeze, on horseback, with hoops and instruments were a source of profound fascination for the artist, who recalled the temporary, almost magical way in which the circus would appear and disappear as though overnight. The magic of the Big Top is in full flight in Le clown à la mandoline, and yet, like a balloon, like a dream, it will burst and vanish: 'For me a circus is a magic show that appears and disappears like a world. A circus is disturbing. It is profound' (Chagall, quoted in Chagall: A Retrospective, ed. J. Baal-Teshuva, Westport, 1995, p. 196). Through the subject matter of the circus, Chagall could explore his favourite themes-- music, romance, humour, happiness-- while also questioning the nature of our world and sharing with us some of his magical and immensely charming capriciousness.

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