- Marc Chagall
- Etude pour 'Le Poète à la tête renversée'
- Signed Chagall (lower right)
- Gouache and pen and ink on paper
- 10 5/8 by 8 1/4 in.
- 27 by 21 cm
Private Collection (sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 8, 2001, lot 192)
Acquired at the above sale
The present work relates closely to two paintings by Chagall, Le Poète Mazin (1910-11, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris) and the important cubist work Le Poète (1911-12, Philadelphia Museum of Art, fig. 1). The pose of the poet in the present work is close to that of the figure in Le Poète Mazin, with the main difference being the upturned head that relates to the figure in the Philadelphia painting. Meyer dated Le Poète Mazin to 1910, as it does seem more plausible that Chagall began with a more naturalistic reproduction of a specific poet, and developed the abstracted subject later. The present gouache would then make sense with his depiction of a poet, with the simple displacement of the head used to describe the poet’s special view of the world.
Aleksandr Kamensky writes of the Philadelphia painting: “The poet’s body, moreover, is transparent, intangible; it is crowned by his green head, which is turned upside-down. Here the painter is employing a symbol to signify the preeminence of imagination over reality. That is the key to the picture; the picture is a visual analogy of the poet’s emotional state, he is totally emersed in his reverie. It is half past three and the poet is still working. That is how Chagall worked at La Ruche” (A. Kamensky, Chagall, The Russian Years, 1907-1922, Paris, 1988, p. 131). The alternate title of the Philadelphia painting is Half Past Three, indicative of the time early in the morning when the artist's finished his composition. In the present work, Chagall alludes to the pre-dawn hour by placing a hovering lamp in the background.