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Half-Past Three (The Poet)
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Half-Past Three (The Poet)

Marc Chagall, French (born Russia), 1887 - 1985

Made in France, Europe


Oil on canvas

6 feet 5 1/8 inches × 57 inches (195.9 × 144.8 cm) Framed: 6 feet 8 1/2 inches × 59 7/8 inches × 2 1/8 inches (204.5 × 152.1 × 5.4 cm)

© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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This monumental painting, made shortly after Marc Chagall’s arrival in Paris from Saint Petersburg, reveals the head-spinning impact of Cubism. The work began as a portrait of the Russian poet Mazin, who often stopped by the artist’s studio to drink coffee in the early hours of the morning. Chagall may have intended the poet’s illogically upturned head as a visual expression of the Yiddish idiom fardreiter kop (turned head), which denotes a state of giddiness or disorientation bordering on madness, an appropriate description for such a delightfully tumultuous image of the poetic inspiration that—as the painting’s title suggests—flows like wine at half-past three in the morning.


Herwarth Walden (1878-1941), Berlin, probably acquired 1914 [1]; Nell Urech-Walden (1887-1963) (wife of Herwarth Walden, divorced 1924), Berlin, until 1926 [2]; ceded by her to Chagall in 1926. Christian Zervos (1889-1970), Paris, probably acquired from the artist [3]; Louise and Walter C. Arensberg, Los Angeles, through Marcel Duchamp as agent, by July 1937 [4]. 1. See Meyer, Marc Chagall, 1967, p. 206, and Jordan, Paul Klee and Cubism, 1984, p. 217, note 25. Jordan says that Walden probably acquired it in 1914, at the time of Chagall's first one-man exhibition in the Galerie Der Sturm organized by Walden. 2. Herwarth Walden sold part of his art collection, including "Half-Past Three", to his wife Nell, a Swedish heiress, to avoid seizure of the paintings as enemy contraband during WWI. When Chagall returned to Berlin in 1922 to collect payment for his paintings left on consignment with Walden in 1914, he found that inflation had rendered the proceeds worthless. He sued for compensation, but in 1926 agreed to accept three of his paintings, including "Half-Past Three", and ten gouaches from Nell Walden in lieu of payment (see Meyer, p. 315-316). 3. Zervos probably acquired the painting directly from Chagall, with whom he was good friends (see Jean-Paul Crespelle, Chagall, New York, 1970, pp. 193, 213). 4. See Duchamp's provenance notes of 8 September 1951 (giving the date as 1938) and undated letter of August 1951 (PMA Arensberg Archive). The painting is listed in the exhibition organized by Yvonne Zervos (1905-1970), wife of Christian Zervos, entitled "Origines et Développement de l'Art International Indépendant," at the Jeu de Paume, 30 July-31 October 1937, as "Coll. Arensberg, Hollywood."