Oil on canvas
299 x 200.5 cm
This painting is organised into two levels like traditional altar paintings – which is what it should have been in the original plans for the Chapel du Calvaire in Vence.
In the sky invaded by yellow light in the top half, the Jewish race and episodes from Biblical history are being caught up in the spokes of a revolving sun – whose colours evoke the Orphism of Delaunay, who Chagall had met in Paris during his training years. Christ on the Cross is among them: his loins are girded by the shawl that Jews wore in the synagogue. For Chagall, Christ is the sacrificed Jew that appears in his paintings at the outbreak of World War II.
In the lower half, an angel carrying Adam, abandoned, in his arms rises out of the primordial ocean where Chagall has painted the animals that came before man. The angel’s features, such as his trousers, emphasise the artist’s identification with him: he thus portrays himself as both creator and bearer of the divine message.