MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
Homère: L'Odyssée
the complete set of 82 lithographs, of which 43 are printed in colours, 1975, on Arches wove paper, en- and hors-texte, with title, text in French, justification and a table of contents for each volume, signed in pencil on the justification, copy 197 of 250 (there were also twenty hors commerce copies numbered in Roman numerals), published by Fernand Mourlot, Paris, in two volumes, loose (as issued), within the original folded paper covers, and canvas-covered portfolio boxes
455 x 355 x 107 mm. (each portfolio box)
Mourlot 749-830
Cramer books 96
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Lot Essay

When Chagall approaches the subject of Greece he approaches it in the same way as life. He does not come to it as still life, but as to a living flesh of dream and memory” (Robert Marteau, quoted in: Mourlot, vol. V, p. 74)

Chagall first visited Greece at the invitation of the Greek-born publisher Tériade in 1952 and then again in 1954. Travelling with his new wife Vava, they visited Athens, Delphi, Poros and Olympia. Chagall immersed himself in the sights and sounds of this ancient culture, falling in love with the sea, the landscape and the light of the Peloponnese, sketching extensively to capture the charming countryside. These arcadian visions inspired Chagall’s great series of lithographs Daphnis and Chloé illustrating the classical love story attributed to Longus, which Tériade published in 1961.

Chagall’s first major work to draw on another great classical poem, Homer’s epic The Odyssey, was a mosaic commissioned by the Department of Law at the University of Nice in 1967. His luminous mosaic interprets Odysseus’s arduous journey from the battlefields of Troy to his home of Ithaca as a parable for humanity, emblematic of the quest for freedom and the pursuit of justice which are exemplified by the triumph of the classical hero over temptation and adversity. Clearly Chagall was drawn to a fuller visual exploration of the rich themes suggested by Homer's poem and in 1975 he published a monumental cycle of lithographs, accompanied by a revised translation in French by Émile Ripert (1882–1948), in two volumes. Printed at the Mourlot workshop, Chagall’s illustrations reveal his acute sense of narrative detail and his ability to evoke the atmosphere of the Mediterranean, saturated in myth and sunlight. In the words of the poet Robert Marteau:

"For Chagall, the gods are not dead...He tell's us that man's earth is not abandoned, that it is not an insignificant sphere roaming in the vastness of creation, but rather that it participates in that infinite grace which is diffused everywhere" (quoted in: Mourlot, vol. V, p. 92).

L'Odyssée would be the culmination of Chagall’s life-long interest in the livre dartiste. His monumental treatment of this great work of literature stands as one of the most important of the 20th century.

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