Marc Chagall - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Set against the backdrop of Ancient Greece, Longus’ Daphnis and Chloé (2nd century AD) is a timeless pastoral romance filled with drama and sensuality. On the Greek island of Lesbos, the story follows two fated soulmates, a goatherd and shepherdess, on their path to love. The young protagonists face a strew of trials and tribulations along the way, including pirate kidnappings and obstructions at the hands of gods. In the mid-twentieth century, the chronicle’s compelling themes of passion, innocence, and romance, together with the rich Mediterranean setting, were poignantly captured by Marc Chagall in his eponymous collection of 42 lithographs.

    “In our life, there is a single colour, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the colour of love.”
    —Marc Chagall 
    La caverne des nymphes (The Nymph’s Cave) touchingly encapsulates a turning point in the lovers’ journey, presenting the moment in which Daphnis experiences feelings of desire towards Chloé after witnessing her bathing herself. Chagall skilfully captures the emotional intensity between the two figures, highlighting their softly curving forms against luminous hues of blue. Whilst the plush figures and elegant floral scenery align Chagall’s work with historical depictions of the ancient novel, here Chagall accentuates the ethereal and dreamlike elements of this vignette in a manner characteristic of his oeuvre. The evening moonlight glistens upon the water’s surface, granting the dazzling scene an otherworldly quality.


    François Boucher, Daphnis and Chloe, 1743, Wallace Collection, London.
    Image: CBW / Alamy Stock Photo 

    The Daphnis and Chloé lithographic suite was commissioned in 1952 by Stratis Eleftheriades, known as Tériade, the renowned publisher and prominent supporter of Chagall. Following the sudden death of Chagall’s first wife, Bella, in 1944, Chagall was heartbroken – equating his loss of love to his loss of creativity, which was also hindered by the oppression of living in Nazi-occupied France. Chagall accepted the Daphnis and Chloé commission shortly after marrying his second wife, Valentina (Vava) Brodsky. Although he thought he would never love again, the story of Daphnis and Chloé – one of love overcoming trial – inspired him. Chagall and his new wife soon set off on honeymoon to the Mediterranean, making sure to visit Lesbos so that Chagall could begin making extensive pastel and gouache works in preparation for the lithographic series. 

    As well as aiming to capture the emotional intensity of the ancient novel, it was also imperative to Chagall to reproduce the romantic, radiant colour and light found in Mediterranean landscapes. The medium of lithography enabled Chagall to translate his painterly brushstrokes into print form, maintaining the rich colours and fluidity of strokes necessary to evocatively present the narrative. The lithographs were produced over four years, during which time Chagall was also commissioned to design the sets and costumes for the Paris Opera’s production of Maurice Ravel’s 1912 ballet Daphnis et Chloé. With its radiant colours and dynamic forms, Chagall’s lithographic presentation of the story is infused with an equally enchanting musical quality, no doubt influenced by this experience.

    • Provenance

      Lempertz, Cologne, Auktion 1059: Moderne Kunst, 27 November 2015, lot 366
      Halcyon Gallery, London
      Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Fernand Mourlot 321
      Patrick Cramer Books 46

Property from a Private UK Collection


La caverne des nymphes (The Nymph's Cave), from Daphnis et Chloé (M. 321, C. Bks. 46)

Lithograph in colours, on Arches paper, with full margins.
I. 42.3 x 64.4 cm (16 5/8 x 25 3/8 in.)
S. 54 x 75.7 cm (21 1/4 x 29 3/4 in.)

Signed and numbered 31/60 in pencil (there was also an unsigned edition of 250 without margins), published by Tériade, Paris, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £27,940

Contact Specialist

Because of technical difficulties our sale is delayed. We should resume soon. Sorry for the inconvenience.
+44 20 7318 4024

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond
Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

Robert Kennan
Head of Editions, Europe

Anne Schneider-Wilson
Senior International Specialist, Editions

Louisa Earl
Associate Specialist, Editions

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 17 - 18 January 2024