The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of the present work.
The circus had been an important subject for Chagall since his Russian and early Paris years. In the late 1920s, as he was finishing his group of gouaches based on the fables of La Fontaine, Ambroise Vollard, who had sponsored the series, suggested that the artist undertake a second group on the circus theme. In the winter of 1926-1927 Chagall painted nineteen gouaches, some based on sketches that he made in Vollard's box at the Cirque d'Hiver. The variety of figures and poses in these works provided elements to which the artist would return again and again during the rest of his career.
The theme of the circus lies at the heart of Chagall's personal mythology. It conjured up many powerful memories for the artist, including recollections he wrote in 1967: 'These clowns, bareback riders and acrobats have made themselves at home in my visions. Why? why am I so touched by their make-up and their grimaces? With them I can move toward new horizons. Lured by their colours and make-up, I dream of painting new psychic distortions. It is a magic word, circus, a timeless dancing game where tears and smiles, the play of arms and legs take the form of a great art. But what do most of these circus people earn? A piece of bread. Night brings them solitude, sadness. Until the next day when the evening flooded with electric lights announces a new old-life. The circus seems to me like the most tragic show on earth.' (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 197).