Impressionist & Modern Art

The Dream-like Scenes of Chagall's 'Daphnis et Chloé'

By Sotheby's

A beautifully illustrated copy of Daphnis et Chloé will be offered for sale in the upcoming Paris Livres et Manuscrits sale on 24 May. Comprised of 42 lithographs, these two volumes transport the viewer not only into the heart of the story, but into the mind of Marc Chagall. The French artist's enduring fascination with romantic narratives are typical of the vibrant, dream-like scenes for which he is most famous.

Chagall was enchanted with the story, and made several trips to Greece, accompanied by his wife, to work on preparatory sketches on Lesbos, the native island of the publisher Tériade, who was born Stratis Eleftheriades, but changed his name on his arrival in Paris in 1915.

The genesis of the work spanned ten years: their first visit to make the first gouaches was in 1952, then a second in 1954, to "correct" his impressions, and to ensure that the works reproduced the emotional experience of these landscapes.

Tériade was particularly drawn to the story of Daphnis et Chloé — a ballet devised by Maurice Ravel  — as the story was adapted from the orignal narrative written by the Greek writer Longus in the 2nd century AD. Considered Ravel's finest work, it charts the love story between a goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé.

Tériade was one of the great publishers of the twentieth century; alongside Skira, he was the artistic director of the important magazine Minotaure from 1932 to 1936, before founding in 1937 the Verve editions (see lot 136). Between 1943 and 1975, he published 27 illustrated books, all monuments of the history of art, including: Jazz of Matisse (1947), The Song of the Dead (1948) Reverdy and Picasso (1948) and Endless Paris from Giacometti (1969). The collaboration between Chagall and Tériade gave birth to five books: The Dead Souls (1948), The Fables (1952), the Bible (1956), Daphnis and Chloé (1961) and The Circus (1967).

These volumes bring to life this evocative story in Chagall’s inimitable hand. As well as explorations in colour, the artist’s expressive line is demonstrated in these exceptional lithographs.

CLICK HERE to view the full sale catalogue.

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