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120 Main Street, Upton MA 01568-6193; 800-809-3343; email sptwd@verizon.net

Updated 2-13-12
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Marc Chagall: The Fables of La Fontaine (1927-1930)

Our Chagall pages are arranged thematically and/or by series and illustrate over 200 different etchings and lithographs. Clicking on the links will bring you to one or more pages on that subject.

Paris / Paris2 / The Village / The Circus / Circus 2 / Lovers / Lovers 2 / Music / Music 2
Flowers / Flowers 2 / Self Portraits / Self Portraits 2

Dead Souls (1923-27) / Dead Souls 2 / Dead Souls 3 / Dead Souls 4 / Dead Souls 5 / Maternité (1925-26)
Fables of La Fontaine (1927-30) / Fables 2 / De Mauvais Sujets (1958) / Et sur la terre (1977)

Chagall and the Bible
Etchings for the Bible (1930-39, 1952-56) / Bible Etchings 2 / Bible Etchings 3
1956 Verve Lithographs for the Bible / 1956 Bible Lithographs 2
1960 Verve Lithographs for Drawings for the Bible / 1960 Bible Lithographs 2 / 1960 Bible Lithographs 3
The Story of the Exodus (1966) / Exodus 2 / The Jerusalem Windows (1962) / Other Biblical Subjects

Chagall in black and white / Signed Chagall Etchings and Lithographs
Original Posters

Review, 12/10/03 Rhythm Section (an entertainment guide jointly produced by the Wisconsin State Journal and the Capital Times)
In 1927, Chagall began working on another project for Vollard, a series of etchings illustrating The Fables of La Fontaine. In these plates we move from the fantastic Russia of Chagall’s imagination and memory to the more dream-like world of ancient myth and fable, told and retold, changing from time to time and place to place, but ultimately always the same. Technically these works differ greatly from those of the Dead Souls. As Meyer comments, "Compared with the last sheets for Dead Souls, in the new plates the painterly content appears enormously increased. Chagall now foregoes the application of aquatint and use of the rocking tool; also dry point technique is scarcely evident. Instead, he does everything by means of etching, and covers the engraved surface with stopping out varnish, a combination that makes for intensive painterly effects. The etching needle draws the most delicately ramified foliage and bush patterns, the texture of plumage and soft fur, and through shadings and cross-hatchings gives a range of tonalities . . . from white to a deep black. . . . Thus each picture is the result of a long series of working stages in the course of which the pictorial design in light and dark is slowly worked out in a process comparable to the building up of the color structure in a painting." The Fables illustrate the grand themes of life that interested Chagall in his other works, especally the Biblle: love, death, and human folly. One of our etchings tells the story of the wanderer who was welcomed into the cave of a family of satyrs. After watching him first blow upon his hands to warm them and then upon his soup to cool it, the satyrs become fearful and ask him to leave, deciding that there is no trusting a man who can blow both hot and cold. In another, a fox and a goat leap into a well together then find they cannot get out. The fox suggests that the goat let him climb up its back and then out of the well, promising to pull the goat up after he is free. The goat agrees, only to be lectured by the fox on the stupidity about jumping into wells out of which one cannot climb. The moral is "better think of the outcome before you begin."

The etchings for The Fables were executed by Chagall between 1927 and 1930; The Fables was issued in an edition of 200 portfolios on Montval, 40 of which also contained a suite of the etchings on japon nacre and 85 of which contained a suite with hand-coloring by Chagall. In addition, there were 15 portfolios hors commerce. There were also 100 sets of the etchings only on paper with wide margins, each of which was signed and numbered (but not hand-colored).

References: Marc Chagall: Druckgraphische Folgen 1922-1966. Verzeichnis der Bestande / Prints in Series (Hannover: Kunstmuseum Hannover mit Samlung Sprengel, 1981); Charles Sorlier, Marc Chagall et Ambroise Vollard: Catalogue Complet des Gravures Exécutées par Marc Chagall a la demande de Ambroise Vollard (Paris: Editions Galerie Matignon, 1981). For a complete translation of The Fables, see Marianne Moore, The Fables of La Fontaine (NY: Viking Press, 1965) and Craig Hill, THe Complete Fables of La Fontane (NY: Arcade, 2008).
Les deux pigeons / The two doves (Hannover 233, Sorlier 181). Original etching, 1927-30. 100 pencil signed impressions (of which this is one), 85 hand-colored impressions, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. This image occurs as plate 87 in the Fables. Image size: 296x240mm. Price: SOLD.
Le Lion devenu vieux / The lion become old (H. 184, S. 132). Original etching, 1927-30. 100 pencil signed impressions (of which this is one), 85 hand-colored impressions, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. This image occurs as plate 38 in the Fables. It shows the once feared and respected lion taken for granted by the other animals. Excellent condition. Image size: (H. 184, S. 132). Price: SOLD.
Le Grenouille qui se veut faire aussi grosse que le Boeuf / The frog who wished to be as big as the ox (H. 148, S. 196). Original etching with hand-painting by Chagall, 1927-30. Plate 2 of The Fables of La Fontaine, commissioned by Vollard after Chagall completed the etchings for Dead Souls. 100 pencil-signed impressions, 85 impressions hand-colored by Chagall (of which ours is one), and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. "A frog sees an ox, says, 'Love his size!' / And then, although no bigger thn an egg, he tries, / With envy goading him, to grow to be as gross / In bulk as the enormous beast. He delegates / Frog Two, his sister to watch close / As he inhales, expands, swells up, fills out, inflates! / Says, 'Sis, how's this?' 'No good.' 'So does this do it?' 'Nope.' / 'This?' 'Too small.' / "-iss?' 'No how.' Until, with one more gasp, the little pipsqueak dope / Gets so puffed up he bursts—KAPOW! / The world is full of types without one whit more brain. / Each bourgeois yearns to build a palace of his own, / Each minor king sends envoys from his little throne, / Each marquis dreams of pages, carrying his train" (trans. Craig Hill). The bear's red is redder than our photo; slight toning at the very top of sheet away from image and not visible as matted; the black etched lines at top are blacker than shown here. A wonderful rich impression hand-painted by Chagall. Image size: 297x235mm. Price: $6500.
Les deux Taureaux et une Grenouille / The two bulls and a frog (H. 160, S. 106). Original etching with hand coloring by Chagall, 1927-30. Plate 14 of The Fables of La Fontaine, commissioned by Vollard after Chagall completed the etchings for Dead Souls. 100 pencil signed impressions, 85 impressions hand-colored by Chagall (of which ours is one), and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. Two bulls contend for the rule of a herd ("and a heifer within the herd." A frog, sighing is asked by another why he sighs. The frog replies that the loser, "banned from his estate— / Those magnificent flower-dotted meadows we see— / And maim us with clumsy feet however deep we go." In the event the frog is right: "One of the bulls retired to the shore / Where the frogs were mangled by his weight / As hourly he trod on twenty or more." The moral? "From the first it has been so—how unfortunate! / The weak must suffer for the follies of the great" (Marianne Moore, trans.). Image size: 296x241mm. Price: $6500.
La Lice et sa Compagne / The bitch and her Friend (H. 162, S. 109). Original etching with hand coloring by Chagall, 1927-30. Plate 16 of The Fables of La Fontaine, commissioned by Vollard after Chagall completed the etchings for Dead Souls. 100 pencil signed impressions, 85 impressions hand-colored by Chagall, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. A pregnant bitch begs a friend for the use of her leanto so that she can give birth to her litter. Afterwards, she refuses to leave. The moral: "One certainly rues aid to the malevolent. / If you'd recover what you lent, / A physical blow is all they feel. / You have to beg and then to beat. / Yield but a foot to their appeal / And find they have usurped four feet" (Marianne Moore, trans.). Image size: 298x237mm. Price: 6500.
Lion et L'Ane Chassant (H. 192, S. 119). Original etching with hand coloring by Chagall, 1927-30. Plate 26 of The Fables of La Fontaine, commissioned by Vollard after Chagall completed the etchings for Dead Souls. 100 pencil signed impressions, 85 impressions hand-colored by Chagall, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. A lion decides to go hunting to celebrate his birthday and hides an ass under a pile of leaves, instructing him to bray loudly in order to startle the other beasts. The ass does so, the beasts panic, the lion catches them and is pleased. The ass then tries to claim part of the credit for the success of the hunt. "The Lion said, 'You aided; I admit you brayed: / If I'd not known the source from which the sound arose / I might myself have been afraid.' " The ass "did not dare" to resent the lion's "slur": "For who would want an ass to boast of what he'd done? / It would not be in character" (Marianne Moore, trans.). Image size: 297x241mm. Price: $6500.
The two parrots, the King, and his son (H. 242, S. 190). Original etching with hand coloring by Chagall, 1927-30. Plate 96 of The Fables of La Fontaine, commissioned by Vollard after Chagall completed the etchings for Dead Souls. 100 pencil signed impressions, 85 impressions hand-colored by Chagall, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. Image size: 288x235mm. Price: SOLD.
Testament expliqué par Esope (H. 173, S. 120). Original etching, 1927-30. 100 pencil signed impressions (of which this is one), 85 hand-colored impressions, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. This image occurs as plate 27 in the Fables. Chagall portrays himself as Aesop here. Image size: 296x248mm. Price: SOLD.
A man and his reflection (H. 152, S. 99). Original hand-colored etching, 1927-30. Plate 6 of The Fables of La Fontaine, commissioned by Vollard after Chagall completed the etchings for Dead Souls. 100 pencil signed impressions, 85 impressions hand-colored by Chagall, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. Image size: 293x239mm. Price: SOLD.
A man and his reflection (H. 152, S. 99). Original etching, 1927-30. Plate 6 of The Fables of La Fontaine, commissioned by Vollard after Chagall completed the etchings for Dead Souls. 100 pencil signed impressions, 85 impressions hand-colored by Chagall, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. Almost invisible repaired tear 2 inches into the image. Image size: 293x239mm. Price: $2500.

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