The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Dated circa 1927-1928, Le cheval à l'ombrelle et les amoureux sur le toit is a stunningly executed work which perfectly displays the power of Chagall's creative imagination and the sheer inventiveness with which he crafts his elegant compositions. The simple but witty narrative, the juxtaposition of animals and humans in unusual circumstances and the intensity and depth of colour is typical of Chagall's work in the late 1920s and demonstrate the enthusiasm for his work and for life in general which his return to Paris in 1923 engendered in him. Franz Meyer, the artist's son-in-law, says of the works executed at this time that they have a 'refined, nervous, and elegant vivacity. The life force is transformed into a firework of figural magic and sparkling light' (Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1957, p. 366).
It was around this time that Vollard first invited Chagall and his daughter Ida to join him in his box at the Cirque d'Hiver, the first of many evenings the artist and the dealer spent there, resulting in Vollard commissioning some works by Chagall on the theme of the circus. Amongst the 19 gouaches that Chagall produced which collectively bear the title Cirque Vollard and the second cycle of circus pictures executed in the winter of 1927-28 are several depicting circus horses. These seem to follow on from his depictions of animals in the illustrations for La Fontaine's Fables, many of which have assumed human characteristics. At the same time, Chagall took the motif one stage further and made the horse the characterful subject of a gouache entitled Le cheval à l'ombrelle. This was later to form the basis of an etching produced in 1930 in a numbered edition of 50 which appeared in the Parisian Russian journal Chisla, with seventeen more printed in 1957. The same motif of the rearing horse appears again in an oil from a third cycle of circus pictures from 1930.
In Le cheval à l'ombrelle et les amoureux sur le toit, Chagall once again uses the same figure of the horse with an umbrella, although, in the present work, the motif is a greater part of the compositional and narrative whole than mere pictorial whimsy. The motif of the lovers, a familiar one even by 1927, is here rendered with great lyricism. They are depicted as inseparable, almost as one entity, their limbs intertwined in a serpentine embrace. This unusual motif of placing the lovers on the roof of a house is explored by Chagall in another gouache of the same title from 1927 in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.