Marc Chagall

Le sacrifice d’Isaac reflects Chagall’s lifelong interest in the Judeo-Christian religious canon. The story of Abraham and his son Isaac, with its themes of sacrifice and parental love, was a subject that Chagall returned to several times throughout his career. In this work, the angel has appeared with the goat that is to be sacrificed in the place of Isaac, and Abraham can be seen to be rejoicing at the reprieve from having to kill his only son. He gazes towards an olive tree, a symbol of peace and stability in both Jewish and Christian religious tradition. In the background, a woman watches from the door of a house, most likely to be Abraham’s wife Sarah.

The goat has a dual meaning to Chagall, as traditionally the goat is used as a vehicle to absolve sin on Yom Kippur. A red ribbon would be tied around it, and it would be set loose into the wilderness to carry away the sins of the year. Abraham’s robe is coloured in a vibrant crimson, the same colour as the ribbon tied around the goat, while Isaac lays pale and naked on the alter, suggesting his childhood innocence being illuminated by the rising sun. Abraham is painted within the comparatively dark area of »Chagall-blue«, while scarlet and the luminescent gold of the sunrise slowly dawn on the scene from the top left corner, imbuing the scene with a hope and joy congruent with the last-minute redemption of Abraham.

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