Compositionally, the 1947 drawing and Juif à la Thora, which Chagall begun in 1968, are almost identical, with the exception that in the drawing the man holds a Shofar in his left hand, whereas in the painting both hands firmly encircle the Torah scroll in its deep red mantle. Also, in the drawing, the Ten Commandments at the top of the Ark are flanked by rampant lions, whereas in the painting the tablets are upheld by Putti, a reference perhaps to the imposing synagogue of the Vilna Gaon in Vilna, Lithuania, which was painted by Chagall in 1935 and which was destroyed during the Second World War. In both works a young Jewish man, wearing Tefillin and wrapped in a long Tallit, holds a Torah in a loving embrace as he floats above the village below. To the right a fully rendered open Ark reveals additional Torah scrolls and prayer books, lit from within by a golden glow. The figure exudes power and strength – a potent symbol of survival and renewal in spite of all adversity. At the lower left of the composition a crowd of villagers look up towards the central figure in joyous celebration.
Chagall explored the subject of the Jew with Torah in important gouaches, such as Villager holding the Torah, 1928, (on loan to the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, Paris) and Rabbi with Torah, 1930 (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam). His most celebrated oil of the subject, Solitude, 1933 is in the permanent collection of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In Solitude, a man, seated beside a white cow, holds a Torah clad in a red mantle, as threatening clouds gather overhead. Following the cataclysmic war years, Chagall was once again able to envision the transcendent Jew rising above the tragedy of the Holocaust, a survivor who holds tight to his traditions and his faith.
Sotheby’s is honored to present this important work by Chagall. The painting remained in the collection of the artist’s family for almost 30 years following the artist’s passing in 1985. More than any other artist, Chagall was able to express the Jewish experience throughout the tumultuous years of the 20th Century: “Chagall, as a Jewish artist, was able to encapsulate a lost world in his expressive and instantly recognizable images.…. He offered a narrative art that met the psychological needs of the moment and gave pleasure and consolation as could no other artist.”
“The soil that nourished the roots of my art was Vitebsk [---]my paintings are my memories” Marc Chagall
 See Joseph Opatoshu’s, The Last Revolt, The Story of Rabbi Akiba, published in Hebrew, New York, Cyco Bicher Farlach, 1948; published in English by the Jewish Publications Society of America in 1952
 See Benjamin Harshav, Marc Chagall and His Times, Stanford, 2004, p. 319
 See The Vilna Synagogue, 1935, Private Collection, exhibited, The Jewish Museum, New York, Chagall, Love, War, and Exile, 2014
Susan Tamarkin Goodman, Chagall, Love, War and Exile, The Jewish Museum, New York, 2013, p. 75
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