White Crucifixion

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White Crucifixion
ArtistMarc Chagall
Year1938 (1938)
LocationArt Institute of Chicago

The White Crucifixion is a painting by Marc Chagall depicting the Crucifixion of Jesus. It was painted in 1938 after Chagall had visited Europe, and can be viewed at the Art Institute of Chicago.


The painting emphasizes the suffering of Jesus and the Jewish people. At the sides violent acts against Jews occur such as the burning of a synagogue and invaders. And in the center, Jesus is shown crucified wearing a prayer shawl as a symbol that he is Jewish.[1] The work is startling as the crucifixion, often seen by the Jewish people as a symbol of oppression, is instead being used to represent their suffering.[2]

Many of Chagall’s paintings could be described as lively, romantic, humorous, imaginative, and filled with brilliant colors, but the White Crucifixion is largely drained of color. Chagall painted it in 1938 while living in Paris, in response to the horrifying events of Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," an anti-Jewish pogrom of official decree by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany (including Austria and Sudetenland) from the 9th until 10 November 1938.

A green figure carrying a bundle is shown crossing the foreground. This figure, who appears in several of Chagall's works, has been interpreted as being either a Jewish wanderer from Yiddish tradition or the Prophet Elijah.[2]

Two changes were made by Chagall to the work, a swastika on the armband of the soldier burning the synagogue was overpainted as well as the words "Ich bin Jude" on a placard around the neck of a man.[1]

There is also a Lithuanian flag in the upper right hand of the painting, which is not unexpected due to Chagall's Litvak roots. Also, in the upper left hand portion of the painting there are the red flags of communism.


Pope Francis, a well-established ally and friend of the Jewish people,[3] considers the painting to be his favorite.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b Wullschläger, Jackie (2008). Chagall. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-27058-0. ch. 19.
  2. ^ a b Harries, Richard (2004). The Passion in Art. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 109–111. ISBN 0-7546-5010-3.
  3. ^ Pope Francis elected leader of Catholic Church: as it happened London Telegraph online edition 14 March 2013, access date 14-3-2013
  4. ^ Pope Francis: Twenty Things You Didn't Know About Him London Telegraph online edition 14 March 2013, access date 14-3-2013
  5. ^ Chicago's Chagall gets its audience with Pope Francis Steve Johnson, Chicago Tribune 10 November 2015

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