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

Tête de cheval

Details
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Tête de cheval
stamped with the signature 'MARC chagall' (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 21 1/4 in. (65 x 54 cm.)
Painted in 1964
Provenance
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 9 December 1997, lot 58.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
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.

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Lot Essay

The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Amidst a light-filled background of vigorously impastoed, luminous colour, some of the most recognisable motifs of Marc Chagall’s personal iconography jubilantly float across te de cheval of 1964. The head of a horse dominates this large composition, surrounded by a floating bride adorned in a diaphanous white veil, and a man clutching a brimming bouquet of blossoming flowers. A rooster and other figures hover on the peripheries of this fantastical vision, appearing like figments of a dream or images from a distant memory. Each of these subjects had a deeply personal symbolism for Chagall: the bride can be seen to be the artist’s great love and first wife, Bella Rosenfeld, and the man, the figure of the artist himself, presenting flowers, a symbol of romance, to his young love.

Painted in vibrant tones of orange and red, the large horse in te de cheval was a motif that held a potent symbolic and personal resonance for Chagall. Horses and other farm animals recalled Chagall’s early life in Vitebsk, a rural, remote village in what is now Belarus. Despite living, working and travelling in a variety of cities around the world, from St Petersburg and Berlin, to Paris and New York, his memories of his childhood and life in Vitebsk populated Chagall's art throughout his career. ‘In my pictures’, he explained, ‘there is not one centimetre free from nostalgia for my native land’ (Chagall, quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall, A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 25).

More than simply a reference to his native land, however, the figure of the horse came to embody a sense of freedom and escapism in the artist’s work, pictured most frequently in the magical realm of the circus. As he explained in 1966, just two years after he painted te de cheval, ‘All my life I have drawn horses… At the sight of horses, who are always in a state of ecstasy, I think: are they not, perhaps, happier than we? You can kneel down peacefully before a horse and pray… I hear the echo of the horses’ hooves in the pit of my stomach. I could race on a horse for the first time and the last time, to the brilliant arena of life’ (Chagall, ‘The Circus’, 1966, in B. Harshav, ed., Marc Chagall on Art and Culture, Stanford, 2003, p. 153). A painting that encompasses the themes of nostalgia, memory, love and personal identity, te de cheval provides a vision of the artist’s vivid imagination and a glimpse into his world.

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