Lot 2
  • 2

MARC CHAGALL | La perdrix et les coqs (Fables de La Fontaine)

300,000 - 400,000 EUR
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  • Marc Chagall
  • La perdrix et les coqs (Fables de La Fontaine)
  • signed Chagall (lower right); titled coq et perdrix (on the reverse back to front in Russian)
  • gouache and ink on paper
  • 51,4 x 41,9 cm ; 20 1/4 x 16 1/2 in.
Executed circa 1927.


Marcel Arland, Paris
Thence by descent to the present owner


Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, La Fontaine par Chagall, 100 fables, 1930, no. 14 or 77
Paris, Galerie Vendôme, Marc Chagall, no. 23 (probably)
Céret, Musée d'Art Moderne, Marc Chagall, les Fables de La Fontaine, 1995-96, illustrated in the catalogue p. 37


Please contact the Impressionist and Modern Art Department for the condition report for this lot.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the Comité Chagall.

In 1926, Ambroise Vollard invited Marc Chagall, "an artist gifted with a creative and fertile imagination and an eye for colour" (Ambroise Vollard, De la Fontaine à Chagall', L'intransigeant, 8 January 1929) to illustrate a huge project he was working on of republishing La Fontaine's Fables. He found the artist's aesthetic particularly enchanting and "akin to that of La Fontaine, at once dense and subtle, realistic and fantastical" (Ibid). Coinciding with Chagall's return to France two years earlier, this request was an opportunity for the artist's work to be viewed alongside one of the great names of French literature. Vollard's decision to invite a Russian-born artist to illustrate a volume that held such an iconic place in French culture provoked a number of disapproving comments, including from members of the National Assembly. Vollard responded wisely to this outrage: "Did La Fontaine himself not take these fables from Aesop, who wrote in Latin, to the best of my knowledge?" (Ambroise Vollard, in Marc Chagall, Les Fables de La Fontaine, Paris, 1995, p.18) Fortunately, other critics were more enthusiastic. Among them, Jacques Guenne, who wrote, "In this series of gouaches, none of which resembles another in colour or inspiration, we search in vain for what to admire the most; this splendid flow of colours, where furious reds blend into opaque blacks, acid greens, opulent yellows, radiant mauves; the extraordinary alchemy which is discernible from even the most superficial viewing of these images; or the fabulous creation and the poignant tenderness of this mind. Perhaps above all, it reveals the miracle that makes Chagall's use of colour the divine grace of his inspiration." (Jacques Guenne, L'Art vivant, 15 December 1927)

Starting in March 1926 and throughout the 19 months that followed, Chagall created a total of 120 gouaches on this theme. Among this allegorical collection, Marc Chagall drew a partridge in delicate and muted shades, the symbol of an elegant woman, confronted by a group of roosters in lively and vivid colours, representing rude and violent men. An exceptional, poetic quality unfolds against a backdrop of colourful strokes, adorned with vegetation that is evoked by a few blue lines. Having grown up on a farm, Marc Chagall always had an interest in the animal form. In this gouache we see a shimmering beast at the centre of an aerial composition, defying the laws of gravity. This interpretation of the Fables, bursting with colour and making use of the anti-naturalist palette, is a characteristic of all of the work of the artist from Vitebsk.