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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, LOS ANGELES

Marc Chagall
NOTRE-DAME
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Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,500,0003,500,000
LOT SOLD. 2,980,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
20

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, LOS ANGELES

Marc Chagall
NOTRE-DAME
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,500,0003,500,000
LOT SOLD. 2,980,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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New York

Marc Chagall
1887 - 1985
NOTRE-DAME
Signed Marc Chagall and dated 1953-4 (lower left)
Oil and sand on canvas
30 1/4 by 39 in.
76.8 by 99 cm
Painted in 1953-54.
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The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the Comité Chagall.

Provenance

Galerie Maeght, Paris (acquired from the artist in 1954)

O’Hana Gallery, London

Stephen Hahn Gallery, New York

The New Gallery (E.V. Thaw), New York

Mr. & Mrs. Larry Aldrich, New York (acquired by 1959 and sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, October 30, 1963, lot 24)

Henry Ford II, Detroit (acquired at the above sale and sold by the estate: Sotheby’s, New York, November 12, 1990, lot 33)

Private Collection, Japan (acquired circa 1990)

Acquired from the above in 2015

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Maeght, Hommage à Paris, 1953, no. 19

Paris, Galerie Maeght, Chagall Paris fantastique, 1954, no. 18

Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts & Atlanta, Atlanta Art Association Galleries, The Larry Aldrich Collection, 1959, no. 7, illustrated in the catalogue 

London, Alon Zakaim Fine Art, Marc Chagall Fables, 2016, n.n., illustrated in color in the catalogue

Literature

Derrière Le Miroir, no. 66, Paris, 1954

Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1964, no. 894, illustrated p. 761

Catalogue Note

Born in the small Russian village of Vitebsk in 1887, Chagall had artistic ambitions from an early age. In St. Petersburg, his instructor Léon Baskt introduced the young artist to contemporary French art by Matisse and the Fauves, forever altering the course of Chagall's career. Soon after, in 1911, Chagall moved to Paris where the immediacy of the artistic community and the legacy of European painting enchanted the artist; “I found myself in the midst of contemporary European artists. At the Louvre I was captivated Manet’s Olympia, and by Courbet and Delacroix, and I came to understand what Russian art was, and the West. I was captivated by the moderation and taste of French art” (quoted in Marc Chagall (exhibition catalogue), San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2003, p. 27).

From that time onward, Chagall’s work would incorporate not only memories of his native Vitebsk, featuring folkloric figures of the violin and his recurrent alter-ego of the rooster, but the potent influence of his adopted hometown and iconic Parisian landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral of Notre Dame (see fig. 1). Notre-Dame presents a radiant tribute to the metropolis favored by so many artists throughout history. Like Delacroix’s monumental and patriotic ode to France, Liberty Leading the People, Chagall’s bold use of color, resonant blues and reds and triumphant focus on French symbols celebrate the great city’s history (see fig. 2).

As one of the most recognizable feats of Western architecture, the cathedral must have seemed to Chagall an unwavering symbol of both personal and national resilience. Begun in 1163 A.D. on the grounds of a former Gallo-Roman temple, the Cathedral of Notre Dame was constructed over the course of numerous campaigns which resulted in the addition of the massive Gothic towers, various flying buttresses and the famed rose windows—which would later inspire Chagall in his own glasswork (see fig. 3)—as well as the addition of the nineteenth-century ornamented spire. Having born witness to the founding and modernization of France and countless political orders, the centuries-old cathedral has escaped numerous incidences of near-destruction and continues to watch over Paris to this day. Despite the devastation of the most recent fire, the cathedral remains largely intact and steadfast, a testament not only to medieval craftsmanship but to the unwavering spirit of the city of light. 

Perhaps more personal than political, Notre-Dame asserts a lyrical tableau with the incomparable cathedral at center, symbolizing the grandeur of French history, its culture at large and the primacy of the city in the artist’s mind and heart. The present work arises from the period just after Chagall’s return to France after a prolonged exile in the Unites States during World War II. Though the artist eventually settled in Vence in the South of France (not far from Matisse and Picasso), the peripatetic Chagall would frequently visit Paris, taking in the atmosphere and admiring the city’s landmarks as emblems of rebirth in post-war Europe. These symbols would proliferate his dream-like landscapes in the following years, often alongside elements of his native Vitebsk, which had been destroyed during the war.

At the fore of this composition, a Madonna-like figure holds a newly born child to her bosom and is lovingly joined to a bouquet-bearing man at lower center. The rooster, symbolizing Chagall’s own virility and ardor, watches over the couple at right. Behind the figures at right is a quiet row of houses receding into the distance and recalling the artist’s village of Vitebsk. Balancing the composition is the great columned Panthéon which hovers to the left of Notre Dame under a luminous sun. The Roman-inspired edifice, once a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, serves as the final resting place for the nation's greatest creative, philosophical and scientific minds including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie, and bears a wealth of decorative murals by eminent French artists. Chagall’s varying use of warm yellows, oranges and reds builds visual vignettes within the composition, with the soft brushwork accentuating the dual qualities of nostalgia and reverie.

The narratives of destruction, rebirth and resilience linked to these cities parallel Chagall’s personal life as well, as the abrupt end of his relationship with Virginia Haggard in 1952 closed a chapter in the artist’s life. Shortly thereafter, however, the artist embarked upon what would become a lifelong romance with Valentina “Vava” Brodsky, who came from a similar Russian Jewish background. The two wed just a few months after meeting, leading thereafter to a richer, more effulgent phase in the artist’s life and work. Reinvigorated by the new relationship, Chagall’s canvases suddenly filled with color and abounded with images of flowers and devoted couples, often against an inventive backdrop inspired by Paris. “The Paris of which I dreamed in America,” Chagall once stated, “I rediscovered enriched by new life, as if I had to be born again, dry my tears and start crying again. Absence, war, suffering were all needed for that to awaken in me and become the frame for my thoughts and my life. But that is only possible for one who can keep his roots. To keep the earth on one’s roots and find another earth, that is a real miracle” (quoted in F. Meyer, op. cit., p. 529).

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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New York