This work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Comité Marc Chagall.
With its virtual explosion of brightly-hued blossoms emanating from an impossibly small vase, the present work presents a traditional still life subject injected with emotion and nostalgia. The theme of flowers in a vase was one to which Chagall returned time and again throughout his career, though his pursuit of the subject became particularly fervent in the mid-1920s. Following a four year residence in Paris from 1910 to 1914, Chagall spent the troubled years of the First World War in his native Russia and returned to work in France in 1923 with a renewed sense of wonder at that country's natural beauty.
As James Johnson Sweeney has noted, "It was in Toulon in 1924, Chagall recalls, that the charm of French flowers first struck him. He claims that he had not known bouquets of flowers in Russia...He said that when he painted a bouquet it was as if he was painting a landscape. It represented France to him. But the discovery was also a logical one in the light of the change taking place in his vision and pictorial interests. Flowers, especially mixed bouquets of tiny blossoms, offer a variety of delicate color combinations and a fund of texture contrasts which were beginning to hold Chagall's attention more and more" (Marc Chagall, New York, 1946, p. 56).
Chagall had married Bella Rosenfeld in 1915 upon his return to Russia, and a pronounced sense of romance pervaded his oeuvre from that moment onward. This new sensibility is apparent at the lower centre, where an impossibly elongated violinist floats past a smaller figure resting against the vase. These characters, subtly rendered, may be a thinly veiled reference to the painter's affection for his beloved wife and fervent belief that their bond would be eternal. Following Bella's untimely death in 1944, poignant images of her would continue to appear in Chagall's paintings and gouaches, serving as imagined reunions between the two lovers.
Although Chagall insisted throughout his career that it was not his intention to create paintings which were symbolic in nature, the autobiographical lexicon inherent in his works is certainly hard to ignore. Painted at a time when Chagall had achieved happiness in his romantic life, and was enjoying professional success as well, this joyful exuberance is readily apparent in the present gouache.