Bible - Bible

Artist’s Name
Author’s Name
Marc Chagall (1889-1985)
1956, Paris
Printed in two volumes, size 45,4 x 34,5 cm
The fond of the text is ‘romain du roi’, which was inscribed by Grandjean in the 17th century
105 off-the-text original oxygraphs
Chagall inscribed the copper plates between 1931 and 1939 for Ambroise Vollard
Printed on ‘Montval’ paper:
  • 275 copies, numbered 1-275
  • 20 copies, off the market, numbered I- XX
  • 100 additional albums were printed on ‘vélin d’ Arches’ paper, which contain 105 original oxygraphs that are accentuated by hand by the artist
The illustration of the Bible, which was Ambroise Vollard’s last grand plan, was terminated in 1939 because of his death and was picked up in 1952 by Tériade. When in 1930, emotionally charged and full of enthusiasm, Marc Chagall began illustrating the Bible. He put so much effort into the project that he considered it necessary to visit Syria and Palestine in 1931, in order to live and be inspired by the same places that the holy texts mention. The result of this choice is evident in all his pictures. From 1931 up until 1939, he completed sixty-six of the one hundred and five zincographs and finished the rest between 1952 and 1956. Although this fascinating illustration took up a lot of his time, Chagall managed by using his talent to finally create a series of cohesive sketches.

The Bible as well as Sketches for the Bible (Verve, issue No 37/38), stand as evidence of the colossal works of art that Chagall masterminded; one of the first modern artists that illustrated such a type of book. Because of his Russian-Jewish heritage, Marc Chagall decided to illustrate some passages of the Bible chosen from the Geneva edition of 1638 in which the Jewish text had been translated by pastors and professors of the Calvinist Church. He illustrates the Old Testament from Genesis to the Prophets and without making any references to the original sins; he narrows his line of work to messages that deal more with understanding, tolerance and love.

Marc Chagall considered the text of the Bible a true masterpiece, which would provide the spirit and the harmony that would make him envision the fate of the world and which he would transmit through his art. In this spirit he created sketches that were extremely clear and simple, which are characterised by an intense expressiveness that is appropriate for the painter to express the essential messages of the Bible. At the same time, Chagall transmits his personal anxiety, which stemmed from the broader political situation of the time and particularly from the rise of Nazism. He presents pictures that isolate specific events and faces in such a manner, that the observer immediately realises from which story they are taken from and what they signify. Looking at these pictures one by one, the viewer relives all the great moments of the Old Testament.