Lot 413
  • 413

Marc Chagall

150,000 - 250,000 USD
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  • Marc Chagall
  • Nu incliné
  • Stamped with the signature Marc Chagall (lower center)
  • Gouache and pastel on paper
  • 11 1/8 by 12 3/8 in.
  • 28.3 by 31.5 cm


Estate of the artist
Gallery Sakai, Tokyo
Gallerie Tamenaga, Tokyo 
Acquired from the above in 2012


This work is in very good condition. Executed on cream wove paper, not laid down. The edges of the sheet are deckled and slightly uneven. The surface is richly textured and the pigments are bright and fresh. Some media stains on the verso. The sheet is attached to the overmount with corner tabs. Some very slight waviness to the sheet inherent to the artistic process. Three very small specks of potential pigment loss visible above the bouquet towards the center of right edge, in the female figure's hair and on her torso. Otherwise, fine.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1976, Nu incliné is a striking example of the mesmerizing dream world that characterizes Chagall’s distinctive artistic vision. At the center of the composition is a gloriously voluptuous nude, framed by the tender approach of a lover’s gaze and a dazzling bouquet of flowers. Flowers are part of the cornucopia of motifs that reoccur throughout Chagall’s œuvre, and they carry a special significance, as André Verdet explains: “Marc Chagall loved flowers. He delighted in their aroma, in contemplating their colors. For a long time, certainly after 1948 when he moved for good to the South of France after his wartime stay in the U.S., there were always flowers in his studio. In his work bouquets of flowers held a special place… Usually they created a sense of joy, but they could also reflect the melancholy of memories”(André Verdet quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, Fairfield, 1995, p. 347).

In the present work Chagall explores the powerful association between lovers and flowers that began in his oeuvre as early as 1915 in his canvas L'Anniversaire, in which his first wife Bella is shown holding a bouquet of flowers. The other protagonist of the present work—in addition to the lovers and the bouquet—is the beautifully soulful blue palette, that lends the work its distinctive atmosphere, and which is one of the most celebrated features of Chagall’s later works. By 1976, aged eighty-nine, Chagall had much to reflect on; Russia and his early life with Bella remained at the forefront of his mind—even more so following his emotional visit there in 1973 after an absence of over fifty years—yet at the same time he had now been happily settled in Saint-Paul-de-Vence for many years with his second wife Vava. By this point widely acclaimed, this was a period when he could reflect in comfort on his artistic success; a position consolidated in the 1970s by the opening of the Musée national message Biblique Marc Chagall in 1973 and then by the presentation of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 1977.

The present work is illustrative of this sense of contentment and stability. Following his return to France from the United States in 1948, Chagall had been drawn to the Mediterranean coast of southern France. The region had positive associations for Chagall; he had first visited in 1926 with Bella and their young daughter Ida, and the impression it made on him had a lasting influence. Walter Erben writes: "The Southern French landscape had astonished Chagall with its wealth of colours and its lyrical atmosphere, had captivated him with the beauty of its flowers and foliage. These impressions found their way into his paintings of that period, refined their peinture and lent them a hitherto unknown radiance" (Walter Erben, Marc Chagall, London, 1957, p. 134). In 1966 he moved with Vava to the hilltop town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and he was to remain there for the rest of his life. This wonderfully romantic and meditative work is testament to the serenity Chagall had found in his last decades and brings together some of the artist’s most iconic and enduring themes.