Lot 2
  • 2

Marc Chagall

600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • Marc Chagall
  • L'Homme au parapluie
  • Signed Marc Chagall (lower left)
  • Gouache on paper
  • 26 by 20 in.
  • 66.3 by 51 cm


Dr. Sonya Stirt, New York (acquired in Paris)

Private Collection (by descent from the above and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, November, 10, 1992, lot 58)

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1963, illustrated p. 361

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1927-28, L’Homme au parapluie is an important early example of Chagall’s lifelong fascination with the pageantry of the circus. Chagall first developed an interest in this theme during his formative years in Vitebsk, and later in Paris, where he frequently attended performances at the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione in the company of Ambroise Vollard.  The visual splendor of this spectacle inspired some of the artist's most imaginative imagery, including this fanciful rendering of a performer with an umbrella. “It’s a magic world, the circus,” Chagall once wrote, “an age old game that is danced, and in which tears and smiles, the play of arms and legs take the form of great art…The circus is the performance that seems to me the most tragic.  Throughout the centuries, it has been man’s most piercing cry in his search for entertainment and joy” (quoted in Marc Chagall, Le Cirque (exhibition catalogue), Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1981, n.p.). 

In the late 1920s Chagall completed nineteen gouaches for the commissioned circus series for Vollard. The present work is one from this celebrated series, which came to be known as the Cirque Vollard.  Elisabeth Pacoud-Rème discussed the inspiration for these gouaches: “Vollard had a box at the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione that he generously shared with the artists who worked for him, including Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso and Chagall. Chagall’s experiences there inspired memories of his childhood fascination with traveling acrobatic troupes…Chagall gave his imagination free rein in his circus gouaches, even more so than in his illustrations for the Fables. Departing from the descriptive character of his French landscapes or Russian scenes, the artist infused the circus images with a novel surreal quality” (E. Pacoud-Rème, Marc Chagall (exhibition catalogue), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2003, p. 148).

Although the present work is populated by a single circus performer, the clown signified the various facets of man’s emotional character, both fun-loving and tragic.  Chagall’s depiction of the clown was not only a powerful means of expression, but also a vehicle that linked him to other key artists working in France.  In L’Homme au parapluie, Chagall focused his attention on depicting the overall mood of the circus through purely pictorial elements of color and form, achieving a lively composition reminiscent of the Harlequins of his predecessors Cézanne and Picasso.