Chagall was born into a small Hasidic Jewish community in Vitebesk, Russia. Throughout his life, he was a deeply religious man whose passion and love for the bible translated into timeless and striking artistic expressions. Today, Chagall’s biblical illustrations are known around the world for their unique color pallet and their passionate imagery. This same imagery that has become synonymous with this great master.
In 1960, Chagall was commissioned to compose twelve stained glass windows for the Synagogue of the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem. The windows took him two years to create and were unveiled at a special ceremony attended by Chagall in 1962. At the unveiling Chagall expressed, “This is my modest gift to the Jewish people who have always dreamt of biblical love, friendship and peace among all peoples.” Each window of the twelve was made after a maquette illustration, which Chagall had executed in gouache. To commemorate this important and historic event, Chagall used the same watercolors that he had used as blueprints for the windows – to create twelve color lithographs, one of which is entitled, The Tribe of Naphtali.
In each of the twelve windows, Chagall chooses to illustrate one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The bible book of Genesis explains that the people of Israel are descended from Jacob. Jacob, who is the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham, has twelve sons who receive God’s blessing by descent and who each form a separate tribe. In this lithograph Chagall depicts the tribe of Naphtali. Naphtali is one of the 12 sons and he was given the land in northern Israel where he raises his four sons. Over the next four hundred years, the tribe grows to 153,000 people.
Chagall uses religious symbols and expressive colors to define each tribe individually. The tribe of Naphtali is symbolized through a deer. This refers to a passage in which Jacob gives Naphtali a blessing by calling him a “running deer”. Chagall’s deer is depicted in red, green and yellow helping to symbolically place it in a realm between heaven and earth as he also captures the mysticism and magic of faith by suspending the laws of gravity and physics. The brilliantly colored rooster hovers above and is commonly symbolized by vigilance, prosperity, abundance, and resurrection, which are frequent motifs in Chagall’s body of work. The tree to the right of the deer and below the rooster is symbolic of the “the tree of life” which represents paradise. This great image – filled with symbolic meanings – cements Chagall’s legacy as a great interpreter of biblical message.
34″ x 42″
To help make this lithograph, Chagall went to the world-renown studio in Paris known as, Mourlot Impremier. There, Chagall collaborated with master printmaker Charles Sorlier. Together they created the twelve tribes of Israel in the lithographic medium and documented their results. Sorlier is also author of the official catalogue raisonné for Chagall’s graphic work. Art historians use the communication between Sorlier and Chagall, often written in Chagall’s own hand on the proofs themselves, as the ultimate collaborative effort between artist and printer. This lithograph was created in 1964 and is boldly hand-signed by Chagall. This particular work is from the smaller and more desirable “proof edition”, numbered in roman numerals. Proof editions are usually more desirable in the marketplace, because the condition of them is usually noticeable excellent, as many times they are stored away and reserved for the artist, publishers, and VIP collectors. Call me today to add this masterpiece to your collection!!