The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
La sirène was executed by Chagall in the last months of 1945, at the end of his American exile. In the winter of 1945-1946, he bought a small house at High Falls, near Rosendale, in the northern part of New York State. Living in an austere timber cottage, in an isolated valley surrounded by woods, and still mourning the loss of Bella who had died suddenly in 1944, Chagall executed a series of gouaches that, according to Franz Meyer "count among the most marvelous works he produced in America" (op. cit., p. 478). They illustrate the classic of medieval Arabic literature, The 1001 Nights, and form the basis for the lithographs commissioned by the publisher Kurt Wolff, Chagall's first important book with original prints to be published since the 1920s.
The original gouaches for these prints are very impressive, and La sirène is undoubtedly the pièce de résistance of the group. Imbued with the oriental motifs which were already the trademark of Chagall's previous project, the designs for Stravinsky's Firebird, the work glows with a magical inner light, conveying all the charms of Sheherazade's fairy-tale narratives. Nothing more than Chagall's inexhaustible creative imagination could match the mad flux of this epic storyteller: the artist's reality, always in movement and in a state of flux, is the visual translation of her everlasting stories. Franz Meyer wrote: "The color is the major factor in this endless metamorphosis. All is now immersed in its tender depths, shot through with ecstatic flames, all is encompassed by its vast, flowing movement; all is pervaded by its delicate breath and heavy fragrance" (ibid., p. 478).
Gouache, watercolor, brush and black ink on paper
Please note the correct details are:
signed and dated 'Marc Chagall 945' (lower right)
Please note the correct dimensions are:
25 3/8 x 19¾ in. (64.5 x 52 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Chagall 1945' (lower right)
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
25¼ x 19¼ in. (64 x 50 cm.)
L. Degand, Chagall Peintures 1942-1945, Paris, 1947, pl. 13 (illustrated in color; titled La Queue des Sirènes).
R. Maritain, Chagall ou l'Orage Enchanté, Geneva, 1948, p. 167 (illustrated).
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1957, p. 758, no. 767 (illustrated, p. 685).
Anon. sale, Palais Galliéra, Paris, 3 December 1975, lot C.
Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 27 June 2002, lot 351.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.