Helene Bailly

Marc Chagall (Vitebsk 1887-1985 Saint-Paul de Vence)
Au Cirque (Clown à la trompette), 1959-1968
Oil and gouache on paper mounted on canvas
63 x 47.3 cm
Signed lower left: Marc Chagall and countersigned on reverse
Certificate of authenticity issued by the Comité Marc Chagall
Provenance: former Galerie Alex Maguy collection, label on reverse

Painted between 1959 and 1968, "Au cirque ou Clown à la trompette" is an oil on gouache painting by Marc Chagall that embodies his unique, poetic style. Built around four figures - a clown blowing a trumpet, a beautiful red-haired horsewoman holding a spray of flowers, an acrobat on his trapeze and a neighing horse - this work is full of symbols referring to Chagall's personal life. Here, the artist evokes his relationship and marriage by depicting himself in the guise of the horse and painting his wife Bella. In the centre, the clown, reminiscent of the musicians in his native village of Vitebsk, celebrates the union with a cheerful flourish. Placed on a circus ring, the trio stands in front of a trapeze artist and an audience. Fascinated by the circus since childhood, in this painting Chagall combines his favourite subjects: the couple, the circus and music, to create a phantasmagorical universe all his own. The predominantly blue and yellow colour palette underlines the magical, nostalgic atmosphere of the scene. In the top left-hand corner, a crescent moon evokes the night, the world of dreams and all its possibilities. Indicated as dating from 1959-1968 by the Chagall committee, this work was painted and then reworked by the artist over several years. After moving to Paris with his family in 1923, he began working with Ambroise Vollard, for whom he notably illustrated Les Fables de La Fontaine. They spent many evenings together at the Cirque d'hiver, the merchant encouraging this pastime in the hope that it would inspire the artist. Chagall produced nineteen gouaches entitled Le Cirque Vollard.
In the 1950s, he declared his admiration for clowns and acrobats and their closeness to the great artists. Like them, their job was to seduce, delight and move. Far from being a simple genre scene, this painting reflects the painter's desires, dreams and memories. An autobiographical tale in which colours are the messengers of emotion.