Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale


Marc Chagall
1887 - 1985
signed Marc Chagall (lower right)
gouache on paper
47 by 45.5cm., 18 1/2 by 18in.
Executed in 1967.
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The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the Comité Chagall.


Pierre Matisse, New York
Private Collection, Cannes (acquired by 1989)
Private Collection (by descent from the above)
Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner


Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Marc Chagall, 2001, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue
Pescara, Marc Chagall, Il sacro e il profano - Fra Picasso e Léger, 2002, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue

Catalogue Note

In the vibrantly charged Nu à la montagne, Chagall revisits the theme of romance, depicting a lounging nude in a landscape whilst her lover gazed admiringly on. While perhaps initially reminiscent of Picasso’s Le Peintre et son modèle series of the same period, Chagall’s rendering is decidedly more intimate and less voyeuristic: the man’s longing is reciprocated by the woman's wide eyes.

Romance is a recurring theme in Chagall’s œuvre and often a reference to Chagall’s first wife, Bella. Although Bella unexpectedly passed away in 1944, she continued to serve as Chagall’s primary muse throughout the artist's career. When Chagall married Bella, he was met with hesitancy from Bella’s family, who preferred that she marry someone with a more stable source of income. Their relationship was special as it represented the true expression of love—the willingness to cross societal norms for lifelong affection. The passion between the lovers depicted in Nu à la montagne is representative of that special love, one which followed him wherever he travelled.

Chagall had settled into a house that he built with his wife Vava in the hilltop town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence a year prior to executing the present work. Therefore, the deep blue mountains in the background of Nu à la montagne likely represent the French Alps. The vibrant bouquet of flowers which the male figure extends toward his muse, adorned with a necklace reflecting the vivid colours of the bouquet, is emblematic of Chagall’s adoration of flora. Indeed, André Verdet writes: ‘Marc Chagall loved flowers. He delighted in their aroma, in contemplating their colours... 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’ (quoted in Jacob Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, Fairfield, 1995, p. 347). The use of colour and subject matter make Nu à la montagne emblematic of Chagall's most romantic works.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale