Lot 388
  • 388

MARC CHAGALL | La Chèvre rouge

180,000 - 250,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Marc Chagall
  • La Chèvre rouge
  • signed Chagall (lower left); signed Marc Chagall, dated 1980 and inscribed Tempera on the reverse
  • tempera and brush and ink on board
  • 46 by 37.8cm., 18 1/8 by 14 7/8 in.
  • Painted in 1980.


Ida Chagall (the artist's daughter)
Acquavella Galleries, New York
Private Collection, Japan
Acquired from the above by the present owner


The board is stable and examination under UV light reveals no sign of retouching. There is a small area of craquelure to the deep red pigments in the foreground of the lower left quadrant with some associated spots of paint loss. There is some minor bubbling in the small dark red pigments in the foilage in the foreground inherent to the application of medium. There is a small paint loss to the left part of the lower edge. This work is in very good overall condition.
"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

With its atmospheric use of vibrant blue, phosphorescent white and bright red, La Chèvre rouge, painted in 1980, is a quintessential example of the glorious dream-like quality of Chagall’s art, capturing the artist’s most emblematic motifs. Having spent most of the Second World War in the United States, Chagall settled in Vence in 1948 before moving to ‘La Colline’ in the nearby hill-top town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1966, with his second wife Vava. The present work celebrates the artist’s blissful years living in the Côte d’Azur and illustrates his passion for colour and light. Depicting the medieval town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the distance, with its distinctive church steeple, this scene of the French Riviera is host to a floating female figure and head, a whimsical goat and a bouquet of flowers, set against an all-encompassing sapphire-blue background. An ambiguous sun or moon at the top of the composition emanates light and reveals the delicate angel swooping down from above. For Chagall, the essential functions of painting were symbolic not formal, a record of his sensations, memories and moods. Originally from Russia, the artist explains why seemingly incongruous themes, namely the goat motif, assume such prominent roles in his œuvre: ‘I painted cows, dairies, roosters and the architecture of the Russian provinces as a source of forms because all these subjects are part of a country I come from, and these things have without doubt left in my visual memory a more profound impression than all the others that I may have received’ (Charles Sorlier (ed.), Chagall by Chagall, New York, 1979, p. 78). Emphasising the point that every painter is from somewhere, Chagall instils a certain aroma of his native land in each of his paintings by returning to the images of his childhood. This enchanting iconography invites the viewer to experience Chagall’s special affinity with painting and dreaming.

La Chèvre rouge reflects Chagall’s fascination with the South of France and the beautiful tranquility that the countryside offers. The artist once said that the suspended flowers represent his adopted home country of France. According to Franz Meyer, Chagall’s biographer, ‘the light, the vegetation, the rhythm of life all contributed to the rise of a more relaxed, airy, sensuous style in which the magic of colour dominates more and more with the passing years’ (Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, London, 1964, p. 519). Chagall’s skill in conveying a pervading light was revered; Picasso, who lived near Chagall during his years in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, once spoke to Françoise Gilot of his palette: 'When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour is […] His canvases are really painted, not just tossed together. Some of the last things he’s done in Vence convince me that there’s never been anybody since Renoir who has the feeling for light that Chagall has' (quoted in Françoise Gilot, Life with Picasso, New York, 1989, p. 289).

With the varying shades of colour that swirl harmoniously across the surface, La Chèvre rouge is simplified in its palette yet deceptively complex in its fanciful composition, representing the mystery of dreams. Chagall himself said he was a dreamer who never woke up and La Chèvre rouge reflects the artist’s warm, romantic, pictorial universe, full of personal metaphor and sentimentality.

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