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Purim

Marc Chagall, French (born Russia), 1887 - 1985

Date:
c. 1916-1917

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
19 7/8 x 28 5/16 inches (50.5 x 71.9 cm) Framed: 30 1/4 x 38 3/4 x 3 3/8 inches (76.8 x 98.4 x 8.6 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1963-181-11

Credit Line:
The Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963

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Label:
In 1916 Chagall was commissioned by the Petrograd Jewish Society for the Promotion of the Arts to create a series of large-scale murals of religious festivals for a Jewish secondary school attached to the main synagogue in Petrograd (formerly Saint Petersburg). Purim refers to the Jewish festival that commemorates the saving of the Jews from the cruelty of the Persian King Ahasuerus and his chief minister, Haman. The annual celebration involves exchanging food and sweets, as seen in Chagall’s mural study, in which two adults prepare to exchange gifts against a field of red that conveys the heightened sense of emotion attached to this joyous religious festival.

Additional information:
  • PublicationMasterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art

    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. Emily Hage, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 172.

Provenance

Acquired from the artist by Dr. Herbert Tannenbaum (1892-1958), owner of the gallery "Das Kunsthaus", Mannheim, 1925-1928 [1]; Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany, 1928-1937 [2]; German government, confiscated by the National Socialist authorities (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda), Berlin (Köpenicker Strasse Depot; from August 1938 at Schloss Niederschönhausen Depot), July 7, 1937-June 14, 1940 [3]; exchanged, along with other modern works, with dealer Ferdinand Möller, Berlin, for a 19th century landscape painting belonging to his Galerie Möller, June 14, 1940-c. 1941 [4]; sold by Möller to Dr. Kurt Feldhäusser (1905-1945), Berlin, c. 1941-1945; by inheritance to his mother Marie Luise Feldhäusser (?1876-1967), Berlin and Brooklyn, NY, 1945-1949 [5]; with Erhard Weyhe Gallery, New York, 1949; sold to Louis E. Stern, New York, October 11, 1949-1963 [6]; bequest to PMA, 1963. 1. Tannenbaum lent the painting to the "Ausstellung Marc Chagall", Cologne, organized in 1925 by the Kölnischer Kunstverein. Tannenbaum was a dealer in modern German art through his Galerie "Kunsthaus" in Mannheim from 1921-1937. To escape Nazi persecution (he was Jewish) he fled to Amsterdam probably in early 1938 (some accounts say 1937; however, he was still selling works at "Das Kunsthaus" as late as December 31, 1937 -- information courtesy of Dr. David Hansen, Senior Researcher and Paintings Specialist, Sotheby’s Australia, email communication of May 1, 2012, in curatorial file), and later lived in America from 1947 until his death in 1958. The National Gallery of Art in Washington owns a Chagall painting, "Houses at Vitebsk", also acquired from the artist by Tannenbaum. 2. According to records at the Museum Folkwang (letter of Jan. 6, 2003, in curatorial file) the painting was acquired in 1928 by Folkwang director Ernst Gosebruch. 3. Communication from Museum Folkwang (see above note). Assigned the EK (Entartete Kunst) inventory no. 15949, as "Russische Dorfszene" ("Entartete Kunst" typescript inventory, c. 1941/1942, Victoria and Albert Museum National Art Library, Fischer Collection; see also Beschlagnahmeinventar "Entartete Kunst", "Degenerate Art" Research Center, FU Berlin, http://emuseum.campus.fu-berlin.de/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=111636&viewType=detailView)(copy of inventory entry in curatorial file). The painting was included in the exhibition "Entartete Kunst," which opened in Munich July 19, 1937. See also "Das schönste Museum der Welt": Museum Folkwang bis 1933 (exh. cat., Museum Folkwang), Essen, 2010, p. 358, no. 8. 4. As recorded in the EK inventory, the painting went to dealer Ferdinand Möller, one of four dealers appointed by the Nazi government to dispose of confiscated "degenerate art" on the international market, by sale or exchange. The entry is marked "T" for Tausch (exchange). The Reich acquired from Möller a "Romantic Landscape" from the circle of Caspar David Friedrich in exchange for six confiscated works: three by Heckel, one by Nolde, and two by Chagall (including "The Watering Trough", 1963-181-14); see Roters, Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin, 1984, Documents 111 and 115, p. 287-288. 5. A letter from the Weyhe Gallery to Henry Gardiner received July 8, 1964 (copy in curatorial file) states that the painting formerly belonged to Dr. Kurt Feldhäusser of Berlin, and that Marie Luisa [sic] Feldhäusser brought the painting to the U.S. (no date given). Feldhäusser, an art historian and schoolteacher, made most of his "degenerate art" acquisitions from Möller in 1941. Curatorial records at the Museum of Modern Art state that he died in the Christmas bombing raid on Frankfurt in 1944; however, according to Andrew Robison ("Kirchner Collector Kurt Feldhäusser," in Festschrift für Eberhard W. Kornfeld zum 80 Geburtstag, 2003, p. 251-253), Feldhäusser was killed by an Allied bombardment in Nuremberg on 2 January 1945. Feldhäusser's mother Marie Luise brought most of his collection to Brooklyn NY in 1948, and subsequently placed it on consignment with Weyhe Gallery. The Social Security Death Index records a Marie L. Feldhäusser, who lived from 1876 to 1967 (no place of birth given), possibly the same person. 6. The price was paid in installments; the last installment paid April 4, 1950 (see copy of receipts in curatorial file). Stern also bought Chagall's "The Watering Trough" (1963-181-14) from the Feldhäusser collection.

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