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"Daphnis and Chloe: Lamon's and Dryas's Dreams"


Marc Chagall

Daphnis and Chloe: Lamon's and Dryas's Dreams / Marc Chagall / 1961

Daphnis and Chloe is a Greek romance, believed to be authored by Longus around the second century A.D. Though it was first translated into French in 1559, Chagall became familiar with it through his longtime friendship with the Greek publisher Teriade. Traveling to Greece in 1952 and 1954, Chagall illustrated the entire story in a magnificent series of forty-two gouaches, which took four years to transfer into lithography. Finally published in 1961, Daphnis et Chloe is considered by many to be his greatest success as a printmaker. This lithograph is number eighteen out of sixty, and is hand-signed.

In the novel, Lamon is a goat herder who discovers a baby boy being suckled by one of his goats. He brought the baby back home to his wife and raised him as Daphnis. Two years later, a sheepherder named Dryas found a baby girl in a cave being suckled by his ewe. He also took the child home, and raised her as Chloe. Years later, Lamon and Dryas both had the same dream, in which their adopted children meet and fall in love. Soon after the dream, the two children accidentally met, and through a series of obstacles large and small, they fall in love and are eventually married.

This piece is an illustration of Lamon and Dryas’s dream. A blue orb dominates this magenta composition. A green angel scampers over the top of the orb, holding a harp while gesturing towards an orange sun rising over a blue field. Another angel, this one with a bow, arrow, and a goat are sketched in relief inside the blue orb, emerging from the psyche. At the base of the orb is a bouquet of white, purple, and magenta flowers, all of which is supported by a white hand. Next to the orb is an orange Janus-like face which hovers over a body of pink flowers constructed by scratching away paint. Chagall brilliantly evokes the ambiguous and disjointed space of dreams, as forms merge into and out of one another.

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