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July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
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Marc Chagall At TEFAF Maastricht

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But of course, not every Chagall acrobat has biblical or religious significance, as one is reminded by Chagall’s “Autour de l’equilibriste,” which was on view at TEFAF at Connaught Brown. Chagall, after all, was “mesmerized” by the traveling circus troupes in Russia, and he regularly attended circuses in Paris after he moved there in 1924. Chagall created a series of 19 gouache paintings of clowns, acrobats, dancers, and horse writers for the dealer Ambroise Vollard, and referred to the circus characters as “tragically human,” according to the gallery.

But even in this work, Chagall couldn’t resist inserting the figure of the bride, walking a tight rope. And immediately to the right of the bride, a figure hoists up a ladder beneath an acrobat, who grasps the hand of an acrobat with wings. A simple explanation might be that the ladder is intended to reach the acrobat in the swing. But is it too much of a stretch to suggest that this might be another Jacob’s ladder, particularly when one considers the acrobat-angels, as well as the fact that the top of the ladder doesn’t rest on anything at all but the air?

Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blog.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Full disclosure: This writer’s trip to TEFAF was funded, in large part, by the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, which, however, had no role whatsoever in or oversight over this article.

About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.


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The exhibit, according to a statement from guest curator Michele Waalkes which is posted on the museum website, “examines how faith can inform and inspire artists in their work, whether their work is symbolic, pictorial, or textual in nature. It further explores how present-day artwork can lead audiences to ponder God, religious themes, venerated traditions, or spiritual insights.”

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It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

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