The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Motifs of love and flowers permeate the œuvre of Marc Chagall. His return to France in 1948, where he settled in Vence, an elegant medieval town on the Cote d’Azur, marked a significant period for the artist's work. Here, he had bouquets of freshly cut flowers delivered to his studio daily so that he could explore their form and colour in varying mediums. For Chagall, flowers were a symbol of love. ‘In [love] lies the true Art’, he believed; ‘from it comes my technique, my religion’ (Chagall quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, Westport, 1995, p. 179).
First introduced into his work in the early 1920s, the image of the vase of flowers is used by Chagall as a symbol with which to express the profound and all-encompassing love the artist felt for his first wife, Bella. After her death, he continued to employ the motif as a means of expressing sentiments of adoration and passion. Chagall professed that he did not deliberately create symbolic works of art, yet the autobiographical lexicon we are presented with in Les amoureux is difficult to ignore. At a time when the artist had achieved romantic happiness and professional success, his works effervesce with serenity and passion. His marriage to Valentina ‘Vava’ Brodsky took place at the beginning of 1952, during the period in which Chagall completed the present work.
‘It was in Toulon in 1924, Chagall recalls, that the charm of French flowers first struck him. He claims he had not known bouquets of flowers in Russia - or at least that they were not so common as in France... He said that when he painted a bouquet it was as if he was painting a landscape. It represented France to him. But the discovery was also a logical one in the light of the change taking place in his vision and pictorial interests. Flowers, especially mixed bouquets of tiny blossoms, offer a variety of delicate colour combinations and a fund of texture contrasts which were beginning to hold Chagall's attention more and more' (J.J. Sweeney, Marc Chagall, New York, 1946, p. 56).
The romanticism of Chagall’s work is apparent from the manipulation of the composition in Les amoureux. While the vase of flowers dominates the foreground, we are given insight into a secret scene. A couple to the lower right of the composition embrace intimately and in private. Depicted as dreamy and ethereal and in the haze of a loving embrace, the couple are unaware of the vivid spray with which they share the canvas. The amorous nature of the work is accentuated further by Chagall’s use of colour. The entirety of the composition is dominated by dark blue tones. The deep blue adds a backdrop from which to allow the vivid explosions of colour in the floral arrangements to burst out and offset vividity with tranquility. The colour is employed elsewhere in thinner layers to mask the definition of the figures and the moon, contributing to the mystical feel of the present work. As is seen in a similar work by Chagall, Still life with flowers or clovées (1949), elsewhere areas of the blue painted surface have been scratched away to reveal bolder colours beneath and to provide the painting with a greater sense of depth and mystery.