During the years of the Jewish holocaust, Chagall painted numerous religious scenes taken from the Christian tradition. He started on The Madonna of the Village in about 1939. Through the years of the holocaust he continued on the work. First of all in Gordes, in southern France, where he had fled to escape the menacing Nazi advance through Holland and Belgium towards France. The painting was not entirely completed until 1942, while the painter was staying in New York.
The painting in its final state shows a Mary holding Jesus in her arms, surrounded by angels singing and playing music accompanied by a flying cow with a violin. The scene is set near a small village. Mary, painted on a large scale wears a bridal gown, and floats in a fantasy world so characteristic of the painter.
The feast of the Assumption is a day to celebrate the day when, according to the Anglican bishop Thomas Ken:
Heaven with transcendent joys her entrance graced,
next to his throne her Son his Mother placed
We celebrate Mary’s life and her entrance into heaven. It is a glorious feast of hope and destiny to inspire our imaginations and our faith. A day to allow faith, mystery, fantasy and hopes to intermingle as Chagall has in this engaging painting.
For another reflection on a painting and the Assumption, please see, on our church blog: Our Assumption.