Lot 6
  • 6

Marc Chagall

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
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  • Marc Chagall
  • Crépuscule ou la maison rouge
  • Signed Marc Chagall and dated 1948 (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 36 1/2 by 19 7/8 in.
  • 93 by 50.5 cm


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist)

Acquired from the above in October 1949


Chicago, First National Bank, Homage to Marc Chagall, 1972


Very good condition. The canvas is lined. No evidence of retouching visible under UV light. The medium is well preserved.
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

Completed in the year that Chagall returned to France from the United States, Maison rouge marks the end of this important period of transition. The beginning of his time in America was marked by two important events, and the impact of these had a profound effect on his paintings of this period. The very day that Chagall arrived in New York on the 21st June 1941 the Germans invaded Russia and in the ensuing months his beloved hometown of Vitebsk was almost completely destroyed. Then, only three years later, Chagall suffered a second loss in the sudden and unexpected death of his wife Bella. By the late 1940s these events had been assimilated into his art consolidating the imagery of the pre-war years with a sense of nostalgia that would remain an important element of much of his subsequent work.


Suffused with an intense fiery red throughout, Maison rouge is a striking amalgamation of these twin influences. The rambling streets and rooftops—specifically recalling the architecture of Vitebsk—form an evocative backdrop to the central figures of the bride and groom and their violin-playing companion. The eponymous red house of the present work is a direct reference to the house in which Chagall was born, a recurring feature of Chagall’s early work and a powerful iconographic tool in his oeuvre. It was the subject of a number of paintings from his time in Russia, both as the central motif and as part of a wider setting, but it took on a new significance in his work following his departure from Russia and now, in the wake of the town’s most recent devastation. Compton suggests that the vibrant red with which Chagall so frequently depicted his childhood home was inspired by the fire which ravaged Vitebsk on 24th June 1887, only two weeks before Chagall was born. In the present work, it might also have been an over-riding sense of nostalgia for his childhood home.

When Chagall was asked to describe the important meetings of his life he replied in characteristically whimsical fashion, ‘When I opened my eyes for the first time in my life I met a whole world, the town, the house, which little by little became fixed in me for always. Later I met a woman’ (quoted in ibid., p. 11). The woman in question was his childhood love and first wife Bella. From the very first, images of her as the archetypal beloved are associated with depictions that recall Vitebsk and both would become symbolic figures that recalled the early years of the artist’s experience. It is the prominence of both Bella and the house in the present work combined with the artist’s innovative use of color and the altered dreamscape perspective that marks out Maison rouge as such an important example of Chagall’s post-war work.

The present painting was the first work that Jerome Stone acquired for his collection.  In 1949, Stone made his first visit to the gallery of Chagall's dealer Pierre Matisse in New York.  The two men struck a favorable deal that awarded Stone this picture and Matisse Stone's unwavering confidence.   Stone went on to forge a close relationship with Matisse and, through the dealer's intervention, made the acquaintance of Chagall and his wife Vava several years later.