The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this gouache.
The cock or rooster occupies a place in Chagall's personal mythology similar to that of the Minotaur in Pablo Picasso's symbolism. In both cases the artist has projected himself into non-human form, and in this process has transformed the designated creature into a personal avatar, which the artist is then free to employ as a surrogate in his paintings. Chagall's rooster, as seen in the present gouache, carries a fiddler on his back, thus entwining their bodies and respective symbolism into a composite form.
While Picasso's Minotaur is drawn from ancient mythology, and possesses a terrifying aspect that stems from both its appearance and the gory legend of sacrifice that surrounds it, Chagall's rooster has far more humble barnyard origins and its familiar domesticated character inspires more congeniality than awe. "The fowlyard, too, has a place in Chagall's recollections of his childhood. That is why poultry are always part of the Russian scenes painted during his first Paris period. In the twenties impressions of French farmyards and work on [La Fontaine's] Fables lend the motif a new topicality" (F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, New York, 1964, p. 381)
Chagall had previously identified more closely with four legged farm animals, such as the donkey or the goat. By the late 1920s, the cock assumed a dominant position in his bestiary. "As a symbol, the cock has an entirely different and far stranger nature than the quadrupeds, which, despite their four feet, are more closely related to man. For thousands of years it has played a part in religious rites as the embodiment of the forces of sun and fire. This symbolic meaning still lingers on in Chagall's work, where the cock represents elementary spiritual power" (ibid., pp. 380-381).
The relationship here of the rooster to music evokes elements of Greek mythology. As a sun symbol the rooster is allied to the god Apollo, who also brought the art of music to mankind, and was the herald of daylight, just as the crowing of the rooster announces the new day. The rooster is also an emblem of virility, and by extension, an appropriate representative of the artist's creative abilities.