J.B. Neumann, New York
Helen McMahon Brady Cutting, New York & New Jersey (acquired before 1940)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Lionello Venturi explained of the significance of this subject to the artist, "The importance of the circus motif in modern French literature and painting is well known; in painting it suffices to recall the names of Seurat and Rouault. As always, Chagall's images of circus people... are at once burlesque and tender. Their perspective of sentiment, their fantastic forms, suggest that the painter is amusing himself in a freer mood than usual; and the result is eloquent of the unmistakable purity flowing from Chagall's heart. These circus scenes are mature realizations of earlier dreams" (Lionello Venturi, Marc Chagall, New York, 1945, p. 39).
The present composition came into the possession of J.B. Neumann (1887-1961), the German art dealer who relocated to New York in 1923 and established the New Art Circle Gallery. It was later acquired by New York socialite Helen McMahon Brady Cutting. A classic American beauty and a fearless traveler, Helen McMahon Brady Cutting was an extraordinary figure in New York society of the early twentieth century. In 1913, the Long Island native was crowned the American Girl of Today by The Times. This caught the attention of her first husband, American financier, philanthropist and sportsman, James Cox Brady. The two settled down in their iconic townhouse, No. 10 east 76th street, just off of Central Park. Following the death of her first husband, Helen McMahon Brady married a distinguished explorer, big-game hunter and Trustee of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Charles Suydam Cutting. The two were avid travelers, exploring countries like Tanzania and Tibet together, and in 1937 Helen was noted as the first American woman to visit Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Throughout her lifetime, Helen McMahon Brady Cutting arranged a beautiful collection ranging from European avant-garde to American works that demonstrated her love for adventure and an eye for quality. Chagall’s Les Trois acrobates has remained in her family’s collection for over 75 years.
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