J.S. has a Chagall print from her great aunt, an art aficionado, who travelled in Europe with her ambassador husband.
The original name for this piece is “Cite des Arts et des Fleurs,” subtitled “Fetes de Paques, 1954,” or “Venice, City of Arts and Flowers,” an event during Easter. It is quite large, at the site size (what you see inside the frame) of 26 x 21 inches.
I found three separate versions of the image, and all are original lithographs. (There is another version which is a modern offset lithograph, NOT contemporaneous with the original date of 1954; virtually just a poster.)
The first of this image bears a printed title of the Paris Festival of Venice in Spring, and it looks like a poster, done for a celebratory opening. This image is signed “in the plate,” not the artist’s signature by hand, for example in pencil; the lithographic plate contains Chagall’s signature. This print used as an advertising poster in 1954 is in its entirety 28 x 20 inches. So that rules out the poster form of this image, as J.S.’s is 26 x 21 inches, measuring just what we see unframed.
Chagall designed lithographs for gallery openings and was commissioned by cities to create festival posters. We see other sizes and prototypes of an image, as the artist limited his sizes to be struck to certain ‘edition’ sizes (numbers of prints made in a certain size.) The printed lithograph (discussed above) had an edition size of 200.
Another size, created at 20 x 15½, does not have printed letters but it is smaller and hand signed, and perhaps these were given to dignitaries upon the opening of the Venice Festival, and Chagall made only 75 of these. These are more valuable because the edition is smaller, and they are artist signed.
Another size, 25 x 20 inches, was created without print (the classic term for this is “before letters”) in 1954, and only 23 were made in that size (23 inches = edition size). That lithograph of that edition is even more valuable, especially signed. The comparable sale from the last sale of this size in 2004 sold for $6,500 in Germany, but it was hand signed, and J.S.’s is not hand signed.
So here we have a rough idea of the value of the Chagall, a little less than $6,500, but not much (taking inflation into consideration), as nothing like yours has sold since 2004. As rarity is always an issue with works on paper, your Chagall might be worth more in 2020, and I would suggest that it just might be worth around $8,000 to $10,000. Today, during the pandemic, the art market has been hot for multiples, (prints), including lithographs, because people can do the research online.
If there’s more than one of a work of art, say there are 75 of them extant (the edition size) and you can see the image online, it is relatively easy to see originality. You must of course take the quality of the paper into consideration (ask the auction house.)
Here’s an example: If you see a print offered for sale, and it is No. 2 out of 10 made, and you can find the other nine, and they are of the size, condition, age, and quality of yours, you have a good bet that you are buying an original. This is not so with unique works like an oil painting (you never know if you are buying an original, because there’s none like yours around.)
Chagall is one of my favorite artists because of his life story. Picasso said of him ”When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is.” On a study trip, while creating Chagall’s illustrations for the Old Testament, Chagall traveled to Palestine and became fascinated by the story of the Jews.
He studied religious art by Rembrandt and El Greco in the great museums of Europe. Living in France in 1940, and creating his illustrations for the Bible, Chagall witnessed (with fear) the rise of the Third Reich. Alfred Barr of the Museum of Modern Art, N.Y., somehow procured a forged visa for Chagall and took him out of Europe. Therefore, when Chagall created this lithograph, he had been through a life- change.
Another way to check the backstory of this print is to find the Catalogue Raisonne for Chagall; the classification is Sorlier 26, Mourlot 92. Catalogue Raisonne are found in Art Museum libraries and will tell you the location of each known lithograph.