The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Painting the present work in 1980, Chagall was one of the greatest living masters of the modern movement. Faithful to the inspiration which had fired his art from the very beginning, Chagall continued to paint with the same vigor and intensity that he had shown all through his life. Old age never makes its appearance in Chagall's paintings after his early period. And given its rapturously romantic subject and the brilliant freshness of his motifs and colors, one might easily mistake La nuit de Saint Jean for the work of a much younger man. It is indeed a work of youthful aspect by an old master, all the more remarkable at this late date.
The title refers to the second tale in Nikolai Gogol’s Les Soirées du hameau près de Dikanka, which was first published in 1830. The story involves a magic flower that blooms only on Kupala Night, known in the west as the Summer solstice, or Feast of St. John. Gogol’s writings had long been a source of inspiration for Chagall, beginning in 1923 when he produced a playful series of etchings for the novel Les Âmes mortes published by Ambroise Vollard.
As had Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre Bonnard before him, Chagall found the Mediterranean an irresistibly congenial and stimulating environment in which to live and work. The scene here is a view of the old walled hilltop town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, the 14th century Tour de la Fondule rising above its ramparts, which Chagall could see, from the studio window in his home 'Les Collines'. The horizon is delineated by the azure sea and the composition is dominated by a great blossoming bouquet that bursts forth against the sky.
Flowers were an integral part Chagall’s life-affirming vision of the world, in which these colorful splendors of nature actually seem larger, more brilliant, and even more vital than they do in real life. Particularly in his late years, Chagall painted flowers with utter abandon, as if they were earthly matter transformed into pure energy, emitting their own light. As Susan Compton has written, "Cut flowers are ephemeral: through man’s artifice their beauty is arranged momentarily. So in these themes the artist reminds us of the impermanence as well as the ecstasy of human love" (Chagall, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, p. 212).