Exodus 1952-66 - by Marc Chagall

Not long before this final move to US, Marc Chagall completed work on Exodus. The title alludes to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt in 1200 B. C, as recounted in the Old Testament. After crossing the Red Sea in miraculous manner, Moses, the leader, was handed down the Ten Commandments.

In the painting Chagall is seen standing at bottom right, holding the tablets with the Commandments, which he has just received from the hand of God. Beyond him, a vast crowd is pouring out of the picture's distant depths. These are the people of Israel on the way to their own land, a story which is told as a parable in the Bible and which was also historical reality throughout the Second World War up to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. So Chagall sees it - and in the process, in his familiar way, he mixes up the various historical levels and literary sources.

As Chagall mentioned later:

God. perspective, colour, the Bible, shapes and lines, traditions, and all that is called human life - love, security, the family, school, education, the words of the prophets and life in Christ - all of it was out of joint. Maybe I too was occasionally filled with doubts. At such times I painted a topsyturvy world, took the heads off my figures, divided them up into pieces, and set them floating about in my pictures somewhere or other."