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123

EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IS REAL: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Marc Chagall
LE SATYRE ET LE PASSANT (FABLES DE LA FONTAINE)
Estimate
300,000500,000
LOT SOLD. 375,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
123

EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IS REAL: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Marc Chagall
LE SATYRE ET LE PASSANT (FABLES DE LA FONTAINE)
Estimate
300,000500,000
LOT SOLD. 375,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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Marc Chagall
1887 - 1985
LE SATYRE ET LE PASSANT (FABLES DE LA FONTAINE)
Signed Marc Chagall (lower right)
Gouache, brush and ink and pencil on paper
19 7/8 by 16 1/4 in.
50.4 by 41.3 cm
Executed circa 1926-27.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

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

Provenance

Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris
J.B. Neumann, New York
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, New York (and sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, November 10, 1948, lot 26)
Dorothy Saidenburg, New York (acquired at the above sale)
James Vigeveno Galleries, Los Angeles
Mr. & Mrs. Harold M. English, Los Angeles (acquired by 1975)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (a gift from the above)
Gekkoso Gallery, Tokyo
Private Collection, Tokyo (and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 12, 1987, lot 225)
Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

New York, Demotte Inc., Paintings by Marc Chagall, 1930, no. 15 (titled Satyr and Passer)
Berlin, Galerie Flechtheim, La Fontaine van Marc Chagall, 1930, no. 38
Brussels, Galerie Le Centaure & Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, La Fontaine par Chagall, 1930, n.n.
La Jolla, California, La Jolla Art Center, Marc Chagall, 75th Anniversary Exhibition, 1962, no. 14
Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art & Kyoto, Municipal Museum, Chagall, 1963, no. 148, illustrated in the catalogue
Toulouse, Musée des Augustins, Chagall et le Théâtre, 1967, n.n. 
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Marc Chagall, Works on Paper, Selected Masterpieces, 1975, no. 22, illustrated in the catalogue
Ludwigshafen, Wilhelm Hack Museum, Marc Chagall: Mein Leben-Mein Traum, 1990, n.n.
Paris, Galerie Gerlad Piltzer, Chagall: Vitebsk, St. Petersbourg, Paris, 1993, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Ceret, Musée d'art moderne, Chagall et les fables de La Fontaine, 1995-96, n.n. 

Literature

André de Ridder, "La Fontaine vu par Chagall," in Variétés, vol. 11, Brussels, 1930, no. 10
Franz Meyer, Chagall, New York, 1961, no. 455, illustrated n.p.
Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, 1963, no. 455, illustrated pp. 347-50
Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, Paris, 1964, no. 455, illustrated n.p.
Jean Cassou, Chagall, London, 1965, no. 95, illustrated p. 157
Andrew Kagan, Chagall, Modern Masters Series, New York, 1989, no. 50, illustrated p. 57
"Figaroscope," in Le Figaro, March 3-9, 1993, illustrated in color on the front cover
Susan Compton, Marc Chagall, My Life-My Dream, Munich, 1990, no. 64, illustrated in color n.p.
Daniel Marchesseau, Chagall, Ivre d'images, Paris, 1995, illustrated p. 76
Jean de La Fontaine & Marc Chagall, Marc Chagall, The Fables of La Fontaine, New York, 1997, illustrated in color p. 91


Catalogue Note

The illustrations for La Fontaine’s fables which Chagall began in 1926 are among his most imaginative works. The complete set of etchings derived from the gouaches was finished by 1930 and finally published in 1952.

The commission from Ambroise Vollard was prestigious and lucrative for Chagall, earning him almost 200,000 francs. Having left the constrained conditions of post-Revolutionary Russia only a few years previously, Chagall and his wife Bella enjoyed some of their happiest years together in Paris at this time, buoyed by their first real period of financial stability and his renewed sense of artistic purpose. Bella would read the fables aloud to her husband as he developed his designs, and his gouaches of this period owe much to their joint expeditions into the countryside where they reacquainted themselves with rural life.

A known champion of the avant-garde, Vollard was unfazed by the controversy surrounding his decision to appoint a foreigner, retorting to the French Chamber of Deputies: “Did La Fontaine himself not take these fables from Aesop, who wrote in Latin, to the best of my knowledge?" (Ambroise Vollard quoted in Marc Chagall, Les Fables de La Fontaine, Paris, 1995, p. 18). But it was Chagall’s distinctive sense of the fabulous which had appealed to Vollard rather than any outsider status: “His aesthetic seems to me in a certain sense akin to La Fontaine’s, at once sound and delicate, realistic and fantastic" (Ambroise Vollard, "De la Fontaine à Chagall," in L'Intransigeant, January 8, 1929, n.p.).

In La Fontaine’s tale, a cold and hungry traveler seeks shelter with a satyr and his wife. They are impressed to learn that the traveler keeps warm by blowing on his fingers, but when the man blows on his soup and explains that this is to cool it down, the straightforward satyr drives him out of the cave for double-dealing. The fable had been popular for centuries among artists looking for a vehicle for political and social commentary, but Chagall’s approach was altogether new. Any such message is secondary to his attempt to capture the tone of La Fontaine’s texts, one in which levity and humor are interwoven with cruelty and melancholy. The vivid two-tone forms, saturation of color and vibrant highlights demonstrate Chagall’s ability to manipulate the medium and recreate the carnivalesque world of folklore. His human figures are typically subsidiary to the mythical creature or animal which dominates the composition. 

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