New decade, new name—Trivium Art History is now Obelisk.   Learn more


Purim, 1917 — Marc Chagall
50.5 cm71.9 cm

Purim is an Early Modernist, Oil on Canvas Painting created by Marc Chagall from 1916 to 1917. It lives at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the United States. The image is tagged Family and Farm. Source

In this colorful village scene, Chagall conflates childhood memories, Biblical stories, Russian folktales, and contemporary happenings. The title refers to a Jewish festival commemorating the deliverance of Persian Jews from the Persian noble Haman, as recorded in the Book of Esther. The two central figures in the painting are preparing to exchange food and sweets, as the festival requires, while a grim-faced stallkeeper attends to a customer in the right-hand corner. In the background is a tiny man on horseback silhouetted against a blue backdrop. Although the background setting itself is a contemporary Russian peasant village, the small figures on poles at the upper left may represent Haman's sons, who were hung for their misdeeds. Purim is a striking example of Chagall's manipulation of scale and narrative content, as well as of his vivid palette and distinctively naïve drawing style. This composition, dominated by a huge field of red, was one of many studies for a series of murals planned for a Jewish secondary school. Although these were never executed, the studies have survived, suggesting the boldness of Chagall's vision.

Obelisk uses cookies to measure site usage, helping us understand our readers' interests and improve the site. By continuing to browse this site you agree to the use of cookies. Learn more