T he status and success of a modern artist living in mid-twentieth century Paris was largely dependent on their relationship with the city’s art critics and publishers. Efstratios Eleftheriades – better known simply as Tériade - was the influencer to impress. A top art critic, publisher, and collector, the Greek expat contributed to Christian Zervos’ Cahiers d’art and was artistic director of Minotaure before founding his own renowned journal, Verve.
The quarterly review circulated from 1937 to 1960 with illustrations and editorials by Modern Masters such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Ernest Hemingway - and Tériade’s dear friend, Marc Chagall. Beyond Verve, Chagall and Tériade collaborated constantly, creating some of the most beautifully illustrated books of the twentieth century, from La Bible (1956), to Le Cirque (1967), and their masterwork: Daphnis et Chloé (1961).
Tériade’s own Daphnis et Chloé set from the coveted deluxe edition of 60 will come to market for the first time on 27 February in Sotheby’s London’s Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale. Maintained in its original portfolio case, and thus in excellent condition, this set of 42 kaleidoscopic lithographs best displays Chagall’s talent as a colourist. Rife with romantic symbolism, Chagall’s prints breathe new life into Greek poet Longus’ idyllic tale of two orphans, raised by shepherds, who fall in love in the fertile plains of Lesbos. Their love is not immune to challenges – including Daphnis’ abduction by pirates – but it’s a happy ending as they marry after reuniting with their birth parents.
A native of Lesbos, Tériade suggested Chagall visit his homeland to source inspiration for the project. With his new wife Vava in tow, Chagall toured Greece twice, visiting Athens, Delphi, Poros, Olympia and their environs in 1952 and 1954. He sketched furiously, capturing the country’s enchanting landscapes in gouache. Upon returning to Paris, the painter-printmaker reimagined his preparatory studies in lithographic form, dedicating three years, from 1957 to 1960, to completing the 42 complex prints. With guidance and assistance from colourist Charles Sorlier, Chagall gained command of the fluid, transparent medium of lithographic ink, sometimes employing as many as 25 different hues to achieve a desired composition.
Published in 1961 aside from the standard book edition of 250, the deluxe edition of 60 includes 42 large sheets, each numbered and signed in pencil. Many sets have been split-up over time, their individual prints dispersed globally. This complete set in its original portfolio case, once belonging to the publisher who inspired its creation, is truly a once in a lifetime find.
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