Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Letters from Africa

Marc Chagall's fiddlers

Black and Jewish - note the prayer shawl and the white hand in the painting below...

Chagall painted several of these fiddlers and this one is from 1923-24. The Guggenheim prefers to call him "The Green Violinist" for no particular good reason. The fiddler's music inspires the young boy to float skywards and himself to lift off the ground. Floating people appear in many of these Russian shtetl paintings as a metaphor for joy during hard times. Of course there's also a little bit of Pied Piper of Hamelin here too.


Chagall was from Vitebsk, then just inside the original Pale of Settlement and now in NE Belarus near the border with Russia. He probably painted this in Paris, not long after leaving Vitebsk.

The fiddler paintings - another one, from 1913, is below - provided inspiration for the title of the musical Fiddler on the Roof (1964), although the story itself dates back to Sholem Aleichem's stories about Tevye the dairyman and his daughters in Boyberik back in 1894. (Boyberik is associated with Boyarka, near Kiev, where Aleichem lived for many years).


The lower painting is in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Copyright © All rights reserved. Homepage | Contact | About | Search