Scenes from the Bible: Marc Chagall

Archdiocesan Museum, ul. Kanonicza 19, Krakow, phone: +48 (12) 421 8963

The exhibition will be composed of 43 Marc Chagall’s lithographs showing scenes from the Bible; they were printed in 1950s to become illustrations for the Verve Bible. The events they depict range from the Genesis to the Books of the Prophets. The owner of the collection is the Archdiocese of Cologne.

God and religion were frequently present in Chagall’s paintings; the artist himself claimed that the works related to religious motives are among the most crucial parts of his work. Being “a painter for everyone,” as the artist defined himself, Chagall often used to refer to Jewish rituals, customs, and traditions which were observed in his family home in Vitebsk. Apart from the paintings, biblical motives are present in the stained-glass windows which the artist designed for cathedrals and the Hadassah synagogue in Jerusalem, and the very series of lithographs we have an opportunity to see here in Krakow, that is often referred to as “Bible I.” The illustrations for the Verve Bible were commissioned in 1930 by Vollard, a Paris art trader. Chagall made the first prints of the series during the voyage to Palestine where he took his wife and daughter in the years 1930-31. The World War II caused a few years’ intermission in the artist’s work, and the successive illustrations were executed in France as late as in 1952. In the year 1956 one hundred and five lithographs were published as Illustrations pour la Bible – VERVE-Bible I. In the artist’s vision, the Biblical history take the flesh and bone of living reality. The individual pictures that combine into the history of the world from the Creation to the days of the prophets share three recurring elements: the Hebrew word Yahweh, the circle of light, and the messenger of God: Angel. In the Jewish tradition, each of these three metaphors is symbolic of God.


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