Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Le paradis

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Le paradis
signed and dated 'Marc Chagall 1978' (lower right); signed 'Chagall Marc' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
44 3/4 x 57 3/8 in. (113.6 x 145.6 cm.)
Painted in 1978
The artist's estate.
Ida Chagall, Paris, by descent from the above, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 11 May 1999, lot 148.
Acquired at the above sale; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 3 May 2006, lot 55.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Marc Chagall: Peintures 1977-1979, October 1979, no. 10, p. 14 (illustrated).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Sale room notice
Please note that this work was exhibited in the following exhibition:
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Marc Chagall: Peintures 1977-1979, October 1979, no. 10, p. 14 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

‘For me perfection in Art and in life comes from this biblical source. Without this spirit, the mechanics of logic and constructivity in Art, as in life, cannot bear fruit’ (Marc Chagall)

Swirling, luminous and colour-filled, Le paradis presents a wondrous vision of an idyllic, prelapsarian paradise as imagined by Marc Chagall. Painted in 1978, this large work dates from the end of the artist’s long and prolific career. Happily ensconced in the south of France, at this time Chagall was living a deeply contented and peaceful life, painting with the same creative zeal that had defined his art since his earliest days as an artist. Composed of a triumvirate of bold and rich colour – blue, green and red – various figures, flowers and animals ethereally float through the large composition, enveloping the viewer into this magical and idyllic realm. While a hovering angel dominates on the left, in the centre of the painting a couple stand, their hands interlocked and heads lightly touching in a moment of quiet intimacy. The couple appear to be the figures of Adam and Eve, surrounded by angels, blossoming flora and fauna, and animals all enveloped by a radiant mass of colour and light. This painting remained in Chagall’s collection for the rest of his life before passing to Ida Chagall, the artist’s only daughter with his beloved wife Bella.

Within the context of Chagall’s oeuvre, Le paradis can be seen as a depiction of the Creation and of the Garden of Eden, an idyllic vision of life before the Fall. A source that was particularly close to Chagall’s heart, the Bible had enthralled him since his childhood. At the very beginning of his career he had looked to biblical themes and subjects including Adam and Eve and the Crucifixion, often fusing Jewish and Christian iconography together. It was not until 1930, however, when his dealer Ambroise Vollard commissioned him to create a series of etchings for an illustrated version of the Old Testament of the Bible, that Chagall truly embraced this subject. Even while continuing to work on two other books for Vollard, La Fontaine’s Fables and Gogol’s Dead Souls, Chagall began to paint gouaches of biblical stories to prepare for this new endeavour. Completely immersed in this project, the artist decided to travel to Palestine in 1931 to experience the Holy Land at first hand. Visiting Jerusalem, the Judean desert and Galilee, as well as Safed where he painted the interior of a synagogue, Chagall returned to France filled with ideas, and immediately set to work on his illustrations, a project that would occupy him for years to come. ‘In the East I found the Bible,’ he recalled, ‘and part of my own being’ (quoted in J. Wullschlager, Chagall: Love and Exile, London, 2008, pp. 349-350).

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Chagall worked on a series of monumental Bible paintings that related to subjects of the Old Testament, illustrating stories from Genesis and Exodus. Like Le paradis, form and colour enrich the stories and narratives depicted, conjuring magical and monumental visions of these age-old subjects. He donated seventeen of these large paintings to the French state in 1966. These canvases, together with other museum loans, comprise the collection housed in the Musée national message biblique Marc Chagall in Nice, the first government-sponsored museum in France ever devoted to the work of a then living artist. It is here that an earlier, very similar depiction of the Garden of Eden, also entitled Le paradis (1961), resides.

For Chagall, it was not only the stories and parables of the Bible that provided inspiration, but the poetry of the language itself. It offered him another world that lay behind everyday reality: ‘Ever since early childhood, I have been captivated by the Bible’, he stated in on 7th July 1973 – his 86th birthday – at the inauguration of the aforementioned Chagall museum. ‘It has always seemed to me and still seems today the greatest source of poetry of all time. Ever since then, I have searched for its reflection in life and in Art. The Bible is like an echo of nature and this is the secret I have tried to convey’ (Chagall, ‘The Biblical Message’, 1973, in B. Harshav, ed., Marc Chagall on Art and Culture, Stanford, 2003, p. 172). In his biblically-inspired works such as Le paradis, the subjects take on a timeless and most importantly, a universal quality. His religious paintings bridged his own religion – Judaism – to encompass Christian iconography, and in so doing, they transcended time and place to become modern statements on the universal themes of life, love, death, joy or suffering. A glorious celebration of both the human and the divine, the fantastical and the real, Le paradis is permeated above all by an overwhelming sense of love, evoked not only by the characters that float through the scene, but by the rich, luxuriant colours that radiate light. For Chagall, this was the abiding and singular aim of art; as he explained, 'I thought that only love and uncalculating devotion towards others will lead to the greatest harmony in life and in art of which humanity has been dreaming so long. And this must, of course, be included in each utterance, in each brushstroke, and in each colour' (Chagall, quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, Westport, 1995, p. 208).

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