VERVE, WITH ORIGINAL LITHOGRAPHIC COVERS BY CHAGALL AND 26 FULL-PAGE HELIOGRAVURES, SIGNED BY CHAGALL
CHAGALL, Marc. Verve. Contes de Boccace. Paris: Éditions de la Revue Verve, 1950. Folio, original lithographic dust jacket over boards. $5800.
First edition of this exceptional volume of 26 Chagall heliogravures, accompanied by 26 tipped-in color prints from a medieval miniaturist, boldly signed by Chagall on the half title. From the collection of Joseph Liverant, a fellow Russian Jewish emigré and friend of Chagall.
The art critic Stratis Eleftheriades, under the nom de plume Tériade, published the art journal Verve in Paris from 1937 to 1960. He commissioned famous artists of the day, from Matisse to Picasso and Chagall, to provide works for the journal, with numerous lithographs appearing for the first time in his publications. This volume is particularly notable for the unusual medium (for Chagall) used: "New washed drawings in India ink, which are quite unrelated to anything he had done before. Using black diluted in every possible degree from onyx to the palest shade of gray, he produced sheets that give an intensely colorful effect… These drawings… were a response to what he saw in his new environment and stemmed from the urge to render in a spontaneous fashion the overwhelming impact of the profusion and light. They also reveal, paradoxically, the increased importance of color as a medium of expression. In these drawings, 'light' does not signify a diminution of the colorfulness, but an advance into the zone from which it springs. One might say that the heart of the color is light and from this light Chagall created the colorfulness of his sheets. What this means is visibly demonstrated by the drawings he did at Tériade's suggestion for the number of Verve dedicated to Boccaccio's Decameron. What Chagall produced was a present-day counterpart to colored reproductions of the miniatures in a fifteenth-century manuscript of Boccaccio's work. For each of his drawings he drew inspiration from the miniature of the same scene and the old and new illustrations are reproduced side by side in the pages of Verve. In Chagall, however, everything attains a new meaning. A new logic links the objects of the anecdotic 'tale,' and the plot of the love story gives rise to ardent desire and serene joy. What is more, in Chagall's large black-and-white plates the light radiates in a far richer modulation of color than the full coloring of the miniaturist's precise magic-lantern pictures" (Meyer, 499). From the collection of Joseph Liverant, a fellow Russian Jewish emigré and close friend of Chagall. Liverant and Chagall both fled Europe in World War II, Liverant to Canada and Chagall to the United States. After the war, both acquired residences in Provence, where shared social circles, similar ages, and a mutual love of Yiddish combined to forge a lasting bond of friendship between the two.