The Twelve Maquettes of Stained Glass Windows for Jerusalem
Marc Chagall’s Windows of Jerusalem lithographs are some of the most important works in Chagall’s oeuvre as they showcase the beauty and intricacy with which Chagall designed an architectural masterpiece in the stained glass windows at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center. The accumulation of years of labor, this lithograph series portrays Chagall’s passion for religious narration and the inescapable draw that everyone has to his dreamy interpretation of them.
In 1959, Dr. Mariam Freund (National President of the Hadassah) and Joseph Neufeld (architect who designed the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center) commissioned Marc Chagall to design the stained-glass windows for the synagogue that was to be part of the medical center. Each of the twelve windows would represent one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Chagall worked on the project for two years, with the windows ultimately exhibited in Paris in June of 1961 and at the Museum of Modern Art New York in the winter of 1961. In February 1962, they were permanently installed in the synagogue. Chagall created the lithographic series The Twelve Maquettes for the Stained Glass Windows for Jerusalem after the image of these original stained glass windows.
The twelve tribes of Israel represent the twelve kin groups of ancient Israel, who are each traditionally descended from one of the twelve sons of Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Upon Jacob’s death, the territory of Israel was divided amongst his twelve sons, designating the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Tribe of Reuben: Reuben was the first son of Jacob and Leah. A disappointment to his father, Reuben was disowned as the Eldest son and his firstborn right to a double share of land was gifted to Joseph. Reuben was known for his volatile and unpredictable nature.
The Tribe of Simeon: Simeon was the second son of Jacob and Leah. Known for his hostile and wrathful nature, Simeon, along with his brother Levi, ruthlessly and cruelly slaughtered the entire city of Shechem as revenge for his sister Dinah’s abduction and murder. Along with Levi, Simeon initiated the scheme to kill his father’s favored son, Joseph. Simeon’s tribe was weak and became known for the sense of tension and unease felt amongst its members.
The Tribe of Levi: Levi was the third son of Jacob and Leah. Levi, like his brother Simeon, was initially known for his hostile and wrathful nature. With Simeon, he ruthlessly and cruelly slaughtered the entire city of Shechem as revenge for his sister Dinah’s abduction and murder and initiated the scheme to kill his father’s favored son, Joseph. His tribe, though lacking in land, became known as the tribe of the priesthood.
The Tribe of Judah: Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. His was the tribe of kings and the leader of other tribes. Judah was often compared to a lion, noble and brave. His tribe produced many prominent leaders including King David and Jesus Christ.
The Tribe of Dan: Dan was the first son of Jacob and Bilhah. He was known to be wise and fair. The Tribe of Dan struggled to maintain land and suffered oppression at the hands of the Philistines. Samson, one of the greatest judges, came from the Tribe of Dan, yet many of Dan’s leaders worshiped false idols and suffered for their treacherous beliefs.
The Tribe of Naphtali: Naphtali was the second son of Jacob and Bilhah. Naphtali was known as a swift runner, comparable to a hind. The Tribe of Naphtali settled in the northern part of Israel and experienced relative ease and peace in comparison to the other tribes.
The Tribe of Gad: Gad was the first son of Jacob and Zilpah. He was known for his great strength and love of war and battle. The Tribe of Gad was comprised of skilled fighters who settled in Transjordan land and later served King David.
The Tribe of Asher: Asher was the second son of Jacob and Zilpah. He and his tribe were blessed with good fortune. They settled in fertile land and produced olives for olive oil, a precious crop. The Tribe of Asher was also known for its wisdom and prosperity.
The Tribe of Issachar: Issachar was the fifth son of Jacob and Leah. In an arrangement with his brother Zebulun, he dedicated himself to the study of the Torah. He was known as a pragmatic and studious figure. The Tribe of Issachar flourished in the rich farmland of the Valley of Jezreel in Galilee and became known for its agriculture and its religious scholarship.
The Tribe of Zebulun: Zebulun was the sixth son of Jacob and Leah. In an arrangement with his brother Issachar, he agreed to financially support his Issachar’s studies. The Tribe of Zebulun was both wealthy and militant. It maintained a symbiotic relationship with the Tribe of Issachar, financially supporting their scholarly endeavors in exchange for spiritual rewards.
The Tribe of Joseph: Joseph was the first-born son of Jacob and his favorite wife Rachel. As a result of his great love for Rachel, Jacob favored Joseph above all of his sons. Joseph’s siblings became jealous of Joseph and unsuccessfully plotted his demise. They sold Joseph into slavery, yet Joseph rose to become the second most powerful man in Egypt next to the Pharaoh. Upon Jacob’s death, Joseph inherited twice the plot of land that his siblings inherited. The Tribe of Joseph was large, powerful, and prosperous.
The Tribe of Benjamin: Benjamin is the youngest son of Jacob and Rachel. Benjamin was known as a cunning and quick warrior, yet he took up an offence against the other Tribes of Israel and ignited a civil war. The eleven tribes turned against Benjamin and nearly annihilated his tribe. Eventually the other tribes forgave the Tribe of Benjamin and the country reunited. The Tribe of Benjamin was the smallest tribe, yet it was known for its ferocity and perseverance in battle.
Please view photo’s below of Marc Chagall’s Stained Glass Windows at the Abbell Synagogue, Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
MORE MARC CHAGALL SERIES:
- Marc Chagall, Drawings for the Bible Series, 1958-1960, Color Lithographs
- Marc Chagall, Nice and the Côt’d Azur Lithograph Series
- Marc Chagall, Daphnis and Chloe Lithograph Series
OTHER MARC CHAGALL WORKS:
- Jean Leymarie, Marc Chagall: The Jerusalem Windows. New York: Park Lane, 1988.
- Distributed Art Publishers, Marc Chagall The Lithographs, La Collection Sorlier
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