Chagall returned to France from America in 1948. While he was living near Paris his friend the publisher Triade often invited the artist to visit him in St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat, where Triade lived for half of each year. Chagall became infatuated with the Cte d'Azur, an area which had already attracted many artists. Picasso lived in nearby Vallauris; Matisse lived in Vence until 1948 and thereafter in Cimiez, near Nice. Triade, who was Greek-born, urged the artist and his companion Virginia McNeil to take up the Mediterranean life-style, and the couple rented a house in St. Jean. In 1950 they moved to nearby St. Paul-de-Vence where they found a villa, "Les Collines," which the great poet Paul Valery had frequented years before. They restored it, and Chagall set up a studio in a nearby building.
The medieval walled town of Vence, with its central tower, is visible in the lower part of the present work. The artist depicts himself holding a palette and brush and with his hand over his heart at lower left. The large disc-like shape in the sky gives off rays like the sun, while at the same time its bluish tint and a faint crescent shape within resemble the moon. Out of if emerges the familiar Chagallian cock, a creature which since ancient times "played a part in religious rites as the embodiment of the forces of the sun and fire. This symbolic meaning still lingers on in Chagall's works, where the cock represents elementary spiritual power" (F. Meyer, Chagall, New York, p. 380).
Forming the lower part of the cock is the figure of a woman; the green color of her hair matches the green color of the artist's face. She may represent Chagall's second wife Valentina ("Vava") Brodsky, whom Chagall married in 1954. Her presence takes the place of the bridal figure commonly seen in pictures of the late 1940s and early 1950s, which embodies Chagall's memories of Bella, his first wife, who died in 1944 (see lot 403). The present painting, like lot 403, features an abundant bouquet of flowers, a symbol of exuberance and joy. While both paintings also share a blue tonality, here it is a lighter key--we cannot be sure whether it is the brilliant blue of daylight or the serene blue of a moonlit night. Here unexpected oppositions within Chagall's imagery, familiar as the images themselves may appear, lend his paintings their perennially fresh lyricism and sense of enchantment.