Daphnis et Chloé

A Celebration of Love

This work is from a suite of 42 lithographs illustrating the pastoral love epic between two orphans found on a mountainside, two years apart, and taken in by a goatherd and a shepherd. The story was written by Longus in 2nd century A.D. and endures as a classic tale of the triumph of love over life's losses, sorrows and suffering.

Tériade, a major art publisher and close friend of Chagall's, commissioned him to illustrate the story while Chagall was on an extended honeymoon with his second wife Valentina (Vava) Brodsky in Greece in 1952. His first marriage, to writer and his oft-muse Bella Rosenfield, ended tragically after thirty-five years together when she contracted a minor throat infection. His relationship with Vava was believed to have brought him back to the ecstatic energy of the work he created while he was with Bella. Chagall did the initial studies for the prints during his honeymoon and the full series was published in 1961.

Chagall and his wife Vava (1967)
Chagall's Pour Vava (1970)

I have always painted pictures where human love floods my colors.

Marc Chagall

The Lyrical Love of Daphnis et Chloé

One of the most famous iterations of Daphnis et Chloé  is Maurice Ravel's 1912 ballet, created for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes with choreography by Michel Fokine and sets by Léon Bakst (who Chagall worked under as an apprentice). The ballet is often heralded as Ravel's masterpiece and is impressionistic in its telling of the Greek epic; it is at turns restrained and ethereal, and then explosive in its sensuality and power. Chagall's imagery is often likened to the lyrical qualities of dance and music and he would have undoubtedly been familiar with Ravel's interpretation of the great and abiding love story of Daphnis and Chloé.

The Royal Opera House's 1951 performance of Daphnis et Chloé, with choreography by Frederick Ashton (as staged in 1994).

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