The luminosity of color in Marc Chagall’s Le Christ au village (1966), which remains thin and translucent, is the most characteristic quality of color monotypes. This is a consistent achievement in the works of Chagall. During the 20th century, most major artists working in monotypes used only black ink. Chagall, however, discovered that the technique was one in which color could be brilliantly utilized. As exemplified in Le Christ au village, monotype is an ideal medium for a painter who can work rapidly and directly without erasures or over-paintings. Driven by his passion for the monotype medium and its process, Chagall yielded a wealth of original pulled prints between 1962 and 1975.
Le Christ au village translates to “Christ in the Village” and captures a narrative scene in mixed perspective. Chagall renders two representations of Christ during different periods of His life. Interpreted from left to right, the first image of Christ shows Him nailed to a cross while floating above houses in the background. Slightly to the right and bottom of the adult Christ, is a figure in profile that largely resembles Chagall himself. He appears to be in prayer as he closes his eyes and bows his head to the ground. Above and slightly to the right of the presumed Chagall is Mary holding Jesus. Like the Chagall figure, Mary and the infant Jesus smile ever so slightly. All of their tranquil facial expressions add an element of serene certainty to the composition. It is noteworthy that Chagall does not place any figure directly on the cen-tral axis of the monotype. Instead, the figures representing Chagall and Jesus as they overlap onto the central axis, but not in their entireties. One of the most striking aspects of the piece is the ambiguous orange oval that is vertical to Chagall’s head. Upon first glance it could re-semble a sun, but looking closer, the image may be interpreted as the head of an animal. The head is shown in profile with one eye gazing toward the viewer as the animal slightly smirks. Due to its oblong head shape, the figure may represent a horse. The bold orange color of the animal’s head in effect lights up the composition as if it were a burning sun. The placement of this floating head at the top of the composition is also striking as Chagall elevates the status of earthly animals to creatures of heaven. Under the circumstances in which Chagall grew up, animals were considered sacred creatures. So much so that families would often invite their farm animal(s) to sleep within the house at night. From a contextual viewpoint, Chagall’s por-trayal of an animal’s head in place of the sun is seemingly a reference to his humble upbring-ing and religious associations.