116
116

PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK ESTATE

Marc Chagall
LA GÉNISSE, LA CHÈVRE ET LA BREBIS EN SOCIÉTÉ AVEC LE LION (FABLES DE LA FONTAINE)
Estimate
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 552,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
116

PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK ESTATE

Marc Chagall
LA GÉNISSE, LA CHÈVRE ET LA BREBIS EN SOCIÉTÉ AVEC LE LION (FABLES DE LA FONTAINE)
Estimate
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 552,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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New York

Marc Chagall
1887 - 1985
LA GÉNISSE, LA CHÈVRE ET LA BREBIS EN SOCIÉTÉ AVEC LE LION (FABLES DE LA FONTAINE)
Signed Marc Chagall and dated 926 (lower right)
Gouache and brush and ink on paper
20 1/8 by 17 1/4 in.
51.1 by 43.8 cm
Executed in 1926.
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The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the Comité Chagall.

Provenance

Josef Rosensaft, New York
Acquired from the above on April 17, 1969

Exhibited

Paris, Bernheim-Jeune, La Fontaine par Chagall: 100 Fables, 1930, no. 93
Vevey, Musée Jenisch, De Monet à Chagall: Collection Rosensaft, 1958, no. 86

Catalogue Note

“The goat, as it happened, a stag having snared, / Sent off to the rest, that the beast might be shared. / All gathered; the lion first counts on his claws, / And says, We’ll proceed to divide with our paws / The stag into pieces, as fixed by our laws.”

So begins the fable of “The Heifer, the goat and the sheep in company with the lion,” from Jean de La Fontaine’s The Fables, the story from which the present lot was inspired. Largely drawn from Aesop, Babrius and Phaedrus’ tales, the 239 fables, published between 1668 and 1694, use unfailing humor to examine moral qualms and human nature. The story of “The Heifer, the goat and the sheep in company with the lion” calls one to be cautious of whom to trust, with the stated equitable distribution of assets quickly dissolving as the lion retains the entirety of the stag by right of kingship (the fable is the genesis of the idiomatic expression “the lion’s share”).

Ambroise Vollard, preeminent French art dealer and close friend of Chagall, commissioned the artist to create a series of etchings illustrating The Fables in 1925, an assignment met with scorn by French society. Staunch conservatives reacted with horror—the notion of a foreigner illustrating high Classical French literature was in opposition to their nationalistic ideals, and they escalated the issue to Parliament to be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies. In response to the Chamber’s clamoring question “why Chagall?” Vollard explained: “Simply because his aesthetic seems to me in a certain sense akin to La Fontaine’s, at once sound and delicate, realistic and fantastic” (quoted in Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1963, p. 348).

Chagall’s illustrations for La Fontaine’s The Fables are among some of the most imaginative and lyrical works from the artist’s entire oeuvre. The complete set of etchings derived from Chagall’s gouache sketches was finally published in 1952 and is enduringly considered among the greatest print suites of the twentieth century. In the present work, Chagall’s ominous color palette and the haunting procession of heifer, goat and sheep toward the lion’s oversized figure perfectly encapsulates the tone of The Fables, which purposefully blends themes of ease and levity with cruelty and melancholy. La Génisse, la chèvre et la brebis en société avec le lion is a testament to Vollard’s unwavering conviction in Chagall, as the artist faithfully evokes in his composition the simple power of folklore.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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New York