Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale


Marc Chagall
1887 - 1985
signed Marc Chagall (lower left)
brush and ink, watercolour, charcoal and gouache on paper
74.5 by 52.9cm., 29 3/8 by 20 3/4 in.
Executed in 1950.
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The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Comité Chagall.


Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne
Private Collection, Melbourne (acquired from the above in 1951)
Thence by descent to the present owner


Berne, Kunsthalle Bern, Marc Chagall, 1951, no. 107

Catalogue Note

Growing up in Vitebsk, the poetic nature of Biblical narratives had surrounded Chagall since childhood. In 1930 he happily accepted commissions for painted scenes from the Old Testament from the art dealer and writer, Ambroise Vollard. Painted circa 1949-50, the present work echoes Chagall’s continued search for profound reflection in life and in art, which he especially revisited from the mid-1950s until 1966 through a series of large paintings, which comprised his Biblical Message. In the artist’s own words: ‘I was born, one might say, between heaven and earth, that the world is for me a great desert in which my soul wanders like a torch, I did these paintings in unison with this distant dream.’ (in ‘The Biblical Message’ in Chagall: A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1995, p. 295).

While Chagall's paintings often incorporated religious iconography, he daringly re-appropriated these images for his own pictorial narratives, changing their significance and breathing new life into these age-old motifs. In Moïse tenant les Tables de la Loi, et l'artiste, Chagall interrogates the metaphysical potential of paint by intrinsically aligning the extraordinary with the mundane, the self-portrait with the profit. He consequently aligns his own artistic message with a biblical message, one that is infused with poetic and religious insight.  Chagall writes, ‘It has always seemed to me and still seems today the greatest source of poetry of all time. Ever since then, I have searched for its reflection in life and in Art. The Bible is like an echo of nature and this is the secret I have tried to convey’ (quoted in ‘The Biblical Message’, 1973, in Barbara Harshav (ed.), Marc Chagall on Art and Culture, Stanford, 2003, p. 172).

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale