Daphnis and Chloe - Daphnis & Chloé

Artist’s Name
Author’s Name
Marc Chagall (1889-1985)
Longus (3rd century A.D.)
1961, Paris
Printed in two volumes, size 42,4 x 33 cm
The font of the text is ‘romain de l’ université’, which was typed by hand
42 coloured off-the-text original lithographs
Chagall inscribed the copper plates between 1927 and 1930 for Ambroise Vollard
Printed on ‘vélin d’ Arches’ paper:
  • 250 copies, numbered 1-250
  • 20 copies, off the market, numbered I-XX
  • 40 additional suites, including all the lithographs, were printed, numbered 1-60
In 1952, Tériade, trusting Marc Chagall’s unique talent, proposes that he should illustrate the bucolic idyll, Daphnis and Chloe, by the ancient Greek writer Longus. Full of enthusiasm and willing once again to give the best of himself, Marc Chagall visits Greece twice. In doing so, he is thrown into the climate that was the source of inspiration for the writer, providing a more faithful and harmonious illustration. It took nine years for the plan to come to fruition and for the masterpiece to be completed. The wonderful colours used by the artist plus the euphoria that rises from his idyllic compositions indicate that the publisher acted very wisely in the choices he made. It is this ability of Tériade that helps bring together the two different forms of expression: the fairy tale world of Chagall and that of the Greek spirit.

Written in the third century A.D., the story of Daphnis and Chloe takes place in Lesbos, considered to be the birthplace of the author. Even though we know very little about Longus, this bucolic masterpiece was very influential in European literature. Using simple language and refined lyrical narration he tells the tale of two youngsters, a shepherd and a shepherdess, that fall madly in love, but unfortunately have to face many obstacles. This moving story is narrated in a very direct way and the author’s catalytic humour is omnipresent.

Marc Chagall is ‘transported’ to Ancient Greece in order to be able to give a faithful representation of the characters and their thoughts, which are described in the book. Thus, Longus’s characters become Chagall’s characters. Through a recreation where colour and light dominate, a wonderful dream world emerges, one that bears a close resemblance to the poet’s. The love affair of these two young people is in perfect harmony with the Greek landscape, inspiring the artist to compose scenic pictures of valleys, mountains, sea, flowers and animals, combined with monuments and mythological figures. These elements express the love of the couple as well as some deeper allegorical ideas of ancient Greek civilization.