Galerie Maeght, Paris
Sale: Sotheby's, London, November 29, 1976, lot 34
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
The subject of married couples and weddings fascinated Chagall from the start of his career. For him the subject of marriage was particularly inspiring because it symbolized the mystical union of two souls. He often rendered the figures floating weightlessly in profound fields of blue, such as those that saturate the surface of the present work. Sydney Alexander describes how Chagall’s wedding pictures can be seen as archetypal descriptions of the eternal relationship of man and woman as symbolized by Chagall’s many happy years of marriage to his first wife Bella. “Frequently erotic, but not obsessively so, as in the case of Picasso, Chagall differs from the Spaniard also in the durability and singleness of his passions. He never loved but one woman at a time, and his first marriage with Bella Rosenfeld (fig. 1) was apparently a blissful union that lasted for twenty-nine years. Bella’s role as muse and manager, vestal virgin and mother, counselor and eminence grise, angel and housekeeper is celebrated in hundreds of paintings. Her transformed image does not cease to appear, even after her tragic and unexpected death in 1945” (Sidney Alexander, Marc Chagall, a Biography, London, 1979, pp. 62-63).
Chagall’s earliest portrayals of couples, from the 1910s, usually depicted himself and his young bride, Bella. In such works, Chagall grasps the hand of his lover who floats upwards into the sky. His joy then was two-fold: the ecstasy of love and the exhilaration at the change in Russian society after the October Revolution which brought vastly greater freedom to the Jewish population. As the years passed, the political connotations receded, and the touching portrayals of couples purely reflected his love for his wife and their union. After Bella’s death, by 1952, Chagall was married again to Valentine Brodsky. His new bride, who was affectionately known as Vava, began to appear frequently in his work of the late 1950s and continued for the next thiry years. While there are some very specific portraits of Vava from Chagall’s later years, the bride figure, as she appears in the present painting, is often viewed as a more generalized, ideal woman in the painter’s celebrations of love and family.
Fig. 1, The artist with his wife Bella and daughter Ida in the 1920s.
Fig. 2, The artist with his second wife, Valentine, also called "Vava" in the 1960s
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