- Marc Chagall
- Coq rouge dans la nuit
- signed Chagall (lower left)
- oil on canvas
John S. Newberry, Jr, Grosse Point (acquired by 1946)
Mr & Mrs Albert A. List, New York
Wildenstein & Co., New York
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 1976. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 2nd May 2012, lot 68)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chagall, 1946-47, no. 57
Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, A Loan Exhibition of French Paintings: XVII-XX Centuries, 1947
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne & Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Marc Chagall, 1947-48, no. 55
Roslyn, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Intimates and Confidants in Art, 1993
Roslyn, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Town and Country: In Pursuit of Life's Pleasures, 1996
Roslyn, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Marc Chagall, 1998
Michel Georges-Michel, Chefs-d'œuvres de peintres contemporains, New York, 1945, illustrated
James Johnson Sweeney, 'Eleven Europeans in America' in Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, September 1946, illustrated p. 33
Agnès Humbert, 'L'Exposition Marc Chagall' in Bulletin des Musées de France, December 1947, illustrated p. 19
Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, New York, 1963, no. 734, illustrated p. 682
Coq rouge dans la nuit strongly recalls the first of the four monumental backdrops (fig. 1) that Chagall made for Russian choreographer Léonide Massine 's celebrated production Aleko. Susan Compton describes the work as ‘dominated by the colour blue, on which Chagall showed hovering, disembodied figures of the two lovers, as though in a dream above the outlined tents below. The left side shows a full moon shining above a lake and both halves are joined by a flying bird, a cockerel whose flight towards the moon symbolises the pairing of man and woman. As a setting for the dance on the stage, it is a rather curious conception, for although vaguely setting a scene, it is a symbolic representation of love’ (S. Compton, Chagall (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, p. 248).
In the present work Chagall transforms the same composition of the young couple and the cockerel into a glorious oil on canvas. All trace of the tents has vanished from the landscape beneath and Chagall adds the figure of a violin-playing goat, appearing like an angel in the sky. His presence acts as a benediction to the lovers but the violin was also a symbol that Chagall used repeatedly in homage to the folkloric traditions of his native Russia. The composition of the lovers is one that Chagall also used in Bouquet aux amoureux volants (fig. 2), a canvas that he worked on throughout his time in America, only finishing after the death of his wife Bella in September 1944. Making full play of the personal iconography that Chagall had developed in his works of the 1920s, both canvases are celebrations of love, illuminated by the same otherworldly blue that Chagall used to conjure his dreamworlds.
The return of this soulful blue, which is noticeably absent in many of his works of the late 1930s, also owes something to his work on the ballet. Prior to the premiere at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Chagall and Bella had relocated to Mexico to work on the scenery and this experience was to have a notable impact on Chagall’s palette. Jackie Wullschlager writes, ‘they found the splendour of Mexico’s violent colour contrasts, the hard sun, and the luminous nights deeply restorative after New York’s greyness’ (J. Wullschlager, Chagall. Love and Exile, London, 2008, p. 406). In Coq rouge dans la nuit Chagall fully embraces this influence, rendering the canvas in a brilliant blue that transforms the work into a vibrant celebration of his singular artistic expression.