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Inna Rogatchi
War & Humanity Special Project

The Language of Love: Transmitting Marc Chagall into the Tapestries

Marc Chagall Tapestries at the exhibition in Vilnius. Photo: Gintare Grigenaite. (C)LNMA. With kind permission

INSIDE THE FOREST OF DREAMS art essay mini-series

Visiting Chagall – Picasso-Ernst: Tapestries and Ceramics exhibition in Vilnius

Part III of III

 Part I can be read here

Part II can be read here

The other Biblical works at the exhibition: Moses and Creation

Two more masterly works on the Biblical themes are presented at the exhibition in Vilnius. Both themes are an essential part of the Torah narrative, Moses, and Creation. 

Chagall’s Moses in its tapestry form, weaved under Yvette Cauquil-Prince supervision also differs in its colouristic from Chagall’s original, as practically everything that Yvette Cauquil-Prince did after Chagall’s works. In this case, head-weaver made Chagall’s very graphic original Moses softer and warmed in colours. 

Tapestry after Marc Chagall’s Moses. Head-master: Yvette Cauquil-Prince. 1973. Private collection. Photo: IR (C). With kind permission.
Marc Chagall. Moses. Lithograph. 1964-1965. Private collection. With kind permission.

In this case, Yvette Cauquil-Prince worked after two Chagall’s Moses, initial original work on paper created by the master  1961, and followed in  a few years a small-edition’ lithograph made in 1964-1965. The tapestry was woven in 1973. 

Chagall’s original Moses of 1961 is emphatically graphic and is set in almost black and white tones, with an elegant emphasis of a light blue. The same work which appeared as a lithograph a few years later, in 1964-1965, gets more brownish, and Yvette Cauquil-Prince who just started to work with Chagall and create her tapestries after his works, went in Moses on continuing the colouristic of her first work after Chagall, Harlequins’ Family. Present at the exhibition in Vilnius both works are quite similar in their warm, thoughtful, very humane palette, with fine emphasis of it in Moses by those incredible light blue lines all over the tapestry – following the threat of Chagall in his initial works on the subject. The attentiveness of Chagall’s interpreter in the genre of tapestry, Yvette Cauqiul-Prince, to the master’s line of thoughts and ideas is admirable. 

Creation

Marc Chagall hardly paid more of his artistic attention to any other subject-matter from the Jewish and civilisation’s history than to the plot, and the very idea, philosophical-wise, of the Creation.  He did it always lovingly, having a set of the Creation, so to say, a scheme of it, in his Jewish heart firmly. His visual many imprints of the Creation are charming, warm, very humane, and it speaks to everyone. Such is the power of love. It transpires sometimes in quite unexpected instances and it has the ability of travelling in time. 

In Vilnius, one can enjoy supervised by Yvette Cauquil-Prince tapestry The Creation, completed in 1971 after Marc Chagall’s Creation lithograph of 1960. 

Tapestry after Marc Chagall’s Creation. Head-master: Yvette Cauquil-Prince. 1971. Photo (C) IR. With kind permission.
Marc Chagall. Creation. Lithograph. 1960. Private collection. With kind permission.

The tapestry, which is ten times larger than the Chagall’s original , also differs from it colouristically. Yvette Cauquil-Prince, in the same way in which she did it with regard to her tapestry after Marc Chagall’s King David and Bathsheba, spread his fragmentary ultramarine in the original as the main colour of the tapestry, with altering Chagall’s very special deep turquoise with greyish and light blue. 

Was the idea behind it to preserve quite well-known Chagall’s lithograph in its full originality, and making the enlarged in ten times tapestry more than ten years after the appearance of the original, to present the Chagall’s Creation in a bit different and more contrasting  set of colours which would be better perceived in a way of a  work of a monumental art? I wish I could ask Yvette Cauquil-Prince about it directly. 

Chagall’s Philosophy Woven 

One tapestry out of nine presented at the exhibition in Vilnius stands alone at the exhibition, due to its unusual depth and warmth at the same time, the Profile in Blue and Yellow.

Tapestry after Marc Chagall’s Blue and yellow Profile. Head-master Yvette Cauquil-Prince. 1973. Photo IR (C). With kind permission.
Marc Chagall. Profile in Blue and Yellow. Exhibition poster. Lithograph. 1967. Private collection. With kind permission.

Unlike many other tapestries, this one was not produced by Yvette Cauqiul-Prince and her team a long time after the appearance of the Chagall’s original. This very beautiful and physically magnetic tapestry was woven by them just six years after Chagall’s original, which was a poster for one of his rather regular exhibitions at the famous Fondation Maeght , convincingly nearby Chagall’s home in Saint Paul de Vence. The exhibition in question had a place in 1967, the tapestry after its inventive poster authored by the artist personally, was created in 1973. 

The poster was so good and appealing that Chagall decided to issue a lithograph of it in a series thrice larger than he did usually, 150 copies instead of usual 50. It was an instant hit, and still is very much looked after lithographs among affordable works by Chagall world-wide. 

While comparing that light and fine original work with Yvette Cauquil-Prince’s designed and supervised tapestry five times its original size, one can see how head-master of weavers has made Chagall’s flying, light gouache poster drawing more heavier, as if settling it into the technique of tapestry with an added volume. She also altered colours, as she always did in comparison with originals, making Chagall’s lighter tones of ultramarine, blue, yellow and orange all darker, with only Chagall’s green left and being transferred from his drawing to the tapestry after it intact. Yvette Cauquil-Prince also added  many strokes of white, as if drawing after Chagall on her tapestry, emphasising and enlightening the threats of faces, and other important details of the work, adding visible accents there in needed places and adding contrast and volume. 

To me, it is comparable to the process of Chagall sitting in the halls of the Louvre and copying Rembrandt, the best ever school for an artist that one can get. In this truly outstanding work in tapestry, Yvette Cauquil-Prince did ‘draw’ on her tapestry, which was five time larger in size than the original, with an amazingly deep understanding of Chagall, creating the work after his artistic ideas and her own work, at the same time, in a full harmony of understanding. Nor surprisingly, Marc Chagall said after seeing Yvette Cauquil-Prince’s tapestries after his works that he was amazed to see his own hand on these tapestries. “One can see Chagall’s hand indeed” – he said.

This palpably warm ‘yellow’ tapestry of Yvette Cauquil-Prince is one of three of her works weaved in appealing and staying in memory yellow-tone works after Marc Chagall famous  Liberation ( 1938 – 1950) , with the Liberation tapestry made in 1997, and La Dance ( 1950), with  La Dance tapestry made also in 1997. In all three yellow works, Yvette Cauquil-Prince has made Chagall’s flying bright yellow and palette in general a darker and deeper one.  

The Space of Love

The selection presented in Vilnius is a very well, professionally balanced narrative of the tapestries after Marc Chagall’s works on various themes, including the Biblical stories, metaphorical messages, motives of youth and family, history and peace, and history of thought and thinking as Marc Chagall visualised it in his timeless art throughout his life. But underpinning it all, both in the tapestries and ceramics present, echoing a solely main theme in entire Chagall’s oeuvre, we have a rare chance to face directly, in a real life, a giant portion of love which transpires from almost anything that Marc Chagall ever did, and which shines from all the works exhibited in Vilnius. But in the most powerful way, in  three of them in particular: Lovers in the Clock ceramic panel, dramatic late Black Glove tapestry made in 2004,  and magnificent Harlequins tapestry of 1993. 

Marc Chagall. Lovers in the Clock. Ceramic panel. 1950-1952. Private collection. Photo IR (C). With kind permission.

When  one luckily finds itself  in that fantastic, un-real forest of dreams set so lovingly in the hall of the Museum of Applied Arts, on rushes instinctively to get closer to that large ceramic work, with its glowing Chagall’s blue, that unique, large enough panel of ceramics ( 120 x 90 cm).  And once one is close to that real joy solely created by masterly and soulful art, there are so many reasons to be joyfully surprised. And also a bit nostalgic, as Marc Chagall was when he was in the process of creating this manifest of pure love and memories. 

We know that the motive of a clock appears in many of Chagall’s works throughout his life, in various techniques, in drawings, lithographs, paintings. That clock was in his head and heart always. Why is it so? Because that kind of clock was the only object of luxury, something special that his poor family owned. 

The great, appealing and special piece of ceramic panel  exhibited  in Vilnius was created by Chagall at the time when he was very much into ceramics, in the early 1950s. It was just two years since he returned to France and just six years since Bella’s sudden passing, unexpected and so very tragic and shocking. 

As Chagall was always very precise with symbolic and personal details in his work, the time at the clock, 13.50 pm , or 01.50 am. It  is not the time of Bella’s passing, which was  6 pm American time back in September 1944, but something else, probably, the time of their first meeting at the home of their both friend’s of youth and Chagall’s first girl-friend, Thea Brachmann. Chagall would remember that, as that meeting has become a thunderbolt in his and Bella’s lives, with every detail of it both of them remembering the rest of their both lives. 

The meaningful detail with regard to the family cloak is in a number of its images, which appears in so many of Chagall’s works, it always shows this very time. 

This ceramic panel is a rare piece because the genre of ceramics  is not expected to produce some special art revelations. It could be beautiful and appealing, but there are extremely rare cases when an inexplicable, superb art is produced in this technique. Lovers in the Clock is a rare exception from this rule. And it is not just a beautiful and well executed piece of decorative art. It is a very telling and touching, deep and gentle human story. 

In general, Marc Chagall was one of the utmost cinematographically-appealing  artists at the time when there was not the trend whatsoever.  But it was the case in the vast majority of Chagall’s works, quite uncharacteristically for his time,  and it has happened because he was sincere in what he was going to convey on his canvases, paper, and any other medium, and that always was a human story. And how right he was in personifying his art so determinedly. Human story is the most winning genre and approach in culture as it always speaks to the human heart. 

Chagall’s art is also unique because of his belief in the sincerity of an artist. His and his family’s personal story overlaps and translates onto many personal stories of his viewers, not all of them, of course, but the disarming way of love in which Chagall was not afraid to share his own life, its milestones and symbols – and one does need a considerable inner courage and freedom to do it – was, is and will be perceived by millions people globally as an universal narrative of love. And this is what matters.  

Le Gant Noir, the story of a rendered heart

At the Vilnius exhibition, one of its indisputable gems is large enough, about two square metres, and impeccably tapestry Le Gant Noir, Black Glove, after Chagall’s famous painting of the same name. 

 

Tapestry after Marc Chagall’s The Black Glove. Head-master Yvette Cauquil-Prince. 2004. Private collection. Photo (C) IR. With kind permission.
Marc Chagall. Le Gant noir. Oil on canvas. 1923 – 1948. Private collection. With kind permission.

Yvette Cauquil-Prince completed this stunning artistically tapestry just one year before her passing, in 2004. It is one of the last works of the unique head-master of artistic weaving. As all other her tapestries made after Marc Chagall’s works, this one differs from the original, too. 

Chagall’s work, which is a loving song of a deeply wounded heart, was completed by the artist in 1948, just two years after Bella’s completely unexpected and so utterly tragic passing, when Chagall was still in a deep shock, remorse and longing. To the degree that his daughter Ida was seriously afraid that her beloved papa would not be able to keep himself sane. Chagall was deeply in the ocean of grief. A half of himself has gone with Bella’s passing, and he never recuperated from this ultimate loss. Who would?  

Chagall’s Le Gant Noir oil work on canvas, which he started yet back in 1923, with totally different background story, was completed by the artist’s  in 1948, two years after Bella’s death, and was one of the early works of the period when he returned to painting after a ten months of the period when his life was stopped completely after Bella’s passing.  The painting shows a palpably dark world around widowed Marc, it is cold-toned, and it is straightforwardly tragic. It ‘lists’ the symbols of their love and life, such as the same Chagall’s family clock, with always the same time, 1.50 pm, or 01. 50 am , on it, Marc’s artist palette which was almost his signature and logo in so many works, their both’ eternal Vitebsk in the winter, that tragic and suffering in this work rooster, Bella’s black glove, of  which Marc who lived in a completely different world before meeting the love of his life, was lovingly impressed of, for once and forever, and Bella’s small notebook, painted by Marc with all his love and torment. 

All this is different in a tonality on Yvette Cauquil-Prince’s tapestry which is twice larger than the original painting.  The tapestry is far brighter than the original painting, in each and every element of it. The faces of Marc and Bella on the tapestry are substantially older, far more reflecting and different than the two beautiful young and loving faces on Chagall’s incredibly touching double portrait of Bella and him in his original Black Glove. 

I am personally not sure that this very rendition of not only great and classic, but psychologically and biography-wise mile-stone Chagall’s work does make justice to it in Yvette Cauquil-Prince’s  interpretation of it. I do think that there are things in our all’ lives that should not be altered by anyone for any purpose, even with the best of intentions. 

It also should be mentioned that the tapestry itself is extremely well done and is striking in appearance, and if not Chagall’s personal tone and mood, but his main line  in his original work is addressed in the tapestry after it with full attention. Bella’s black glove, immortalised by Marc, and her modest notebook  are staying out from that tapestry, conveying the artist’s message in his requiem to their love, in a striking way. 

Les Arlequins, 1993, an Enlightening Waltz of Loving Memory

For everyone who is lucky to visit the great and very interesting exhibition in Vilnius, the one work there is truly a magnet. To the degree that one comes and returns to it many times, despite the fact that there are many truly fantastic and rarely exhibited works in the hall of the Museum of Applied Arts and Design in Vilnius.  

But people are coming and returning, many times to the very large work which is situated in the best possible way, in the back of the large hall, so it is visible from every angle of it. Visitors are returning to this very work with a good reason. It is magnetic, beautiful, interesting, and full of many great details. But most of all, it emanates joy and love, in a delicate way. Even among  a top tier art, rarely one can see such perfection of the heart. And in this work, the merit of Yvette Cauquil-Prince is indisputable. She did that very special tapestry on the basis of Chagall’s sketches, not his finished work. The head-master followed the Master with a loving heart, attentive eye, and very able mind. 

With all these assets acting in an ensemble, Yvette Cauquil-Prince has created one of her best works in her own right. She also knew it, and was sure that ‘Chagall would be happy’ seeing this very tapestry. 

Tapestry after Marc Chagall’s Harlequins at the exhibition in Vilnius. Head-master Yvette Cauquil-Prince. 1993. Private collection. Photo: Gintare Grigenaite. (C)LNMA. With kind permission.

 Chagall had no chance of doing it, sadly, as the work was done in 1993, eight years after his passing. But I am sure that he would love it.

Yvette Cauquil-Prince was working with three important original sources for this outstanding  tapestry, Chagall’s initial small and fantastic pencil study for it , on which he worked during a pre-war decade in Paris, between 1930 and 1940, and his two  consequent studies, one small with some colouring , made by the artist  between 1935 and 1945, so he finished it already in the US, and already after Bella’s passing, and another one, larger in size, in full colour, and with finalising the characters and composition which he did in the US after Bella’s passing when Marc has returned to work after almost a year of a total pause  of ten months, with all his works turned back to the walls by their front side. 

Marc Chagall. Study for Les Arlequins. 1945. Private collection. With kind permission.

 Examining the lovely tapestry inch by inch, it is amazing to see how generously and graciously Yvette Cauqiul-Prince adopted all details from all three existing Chagall’s studies for his song of love to Bella, making a encompassing statement of love, also from her side, to his pain which never disappeared. It is not without a reason that till the end of his life, which was forty one years after Bella’s passing, Marc Chagall absolutely refused to speak about  his wife and love of his life in the past tense. He always did it only in a present tense. Just this fact alone speaks everything about what Bella’s passing was for him. He just could not, was unable in any sense and respect to let her go. And he never did. 

Eight years after his own passing, his close colleague and artistic soul-mate Yvette Cauquil-Prince has created an amazing masterpiece of Les Harlequins. Tapestry.  It is amazing in its craft and it also is a materialised,  detailed hymn of love that Marc Chagall meant for his wife in all three of his sketches that he was busy with for fifteen years, from 1930 through 1945. 

In this case, Yvette Cauquil-Prince’s own reading of one of the central figures in the Harlequins is more than justified. Chagall drew a very sad Bella in the centre of his last study for the work. In Yvette Cauquil-Prince’s tapestry, Bella is thoughtful and reflective, but not that ultimately sad as in Chagall’s sketch. On the tapestry, she is beautiful and serene. Chagall’s real friend and close colleague Yvette Cauquil-Prince did show all her understanding in this delicate, lovely figure, around which all Bella and Marc’s life symbolised is circling in an enlightening waltz of loving memory. 

Yvette Cauquil-Prince also added two elements to Chagall’s studies: the Eiffel Tower in the centre in the light blue cloud, to emphasise what a bright spot in their both lives Paris was for Marc and Bella, and a young Chagall’s portrait next to his house in Vitebsk in the low right corner, the detail which was not present at any of Chagall’s three studies for the work. It all was done with utmost taste, delicacy, and understanding. 

One can look at so many lovely details of that unparalleled tapestry for a very long time. Every small and bigger detail in this amazing work, the manifest of loving friendship and deep understanding, are just beyond imagination, so well they are executed technically, so perfect the colours are, so masterly is every single line, all together it literally weaves in a great portrait of love, not only of young Marc and Bella Chagalls, but in general, as well.  The candle, the chair, the rooster, the book, the flowers, a little violinist sitting so touchingly on the very edge of that chair. My goodness, what love and understanding can produce, one wonders.  

The tapestry is just incredible, both seen from a long distance and even more so, from no distance. I am not surprised why Yvette Cauquil-Prince, who always was very self-composed, was beaming with open happiness after the tapestry was completed. It was a statement on her attitude to Marc Chagall, both as a professional and as a person, both as a creator and a friend, both as a colleague and a soul-mate.  And it is one of the very rare manifestations of love stated in the most gentle and delicate way to be seen in modern art. 

Yvette Cauquil-Prince next to her Les Arlequins tapestry after Marc Chagall’s study. After 1993. With kind permission.

The Music of Humanity

Rarely, we are lucky to be treated to the kind of exhibitions that prompts one to analyse each and every work exhibited there. It is a huge and refined curatorial achievement of its own. But all together, the outstanding works designed and supervised by Yvette Cauquil-Prince outstanding tapestries, and inventive, warm, original and as if smiling ceramics works by Marc Chagall are producing a musical narrative of the exhibition. It is the music of humanity. It does not age. To the contrary. It sounds today perhaps yet more poignantly than we heard it yesterday. It brings out the best in us, love, compassion, memories, the feeling of belonging and the feeling of connection to our history, both recent and more distant. It turns our attention towards the core values of a human being, life, society and destiny. And what is left after one’s passing. 

The legacy of love was institutionalised by Marc Chagall in a disarming way which still speaks effortlessly, with a trace of a smile,  to millions of hearts world-wide.  To see it in real-life is a memorable human experience. 

But there is more than a love story coming out from this rare and lovingly presented exhibition. There are many motives explored artistically on the highest level in all those works presented: co-existence, flow of time ( which Chagall sometimes emphatically ignored, in his own individual interpretation of that most fundamental concept of being), interconnections in between generations, freedom, human choices and deeds, our values and principles, intentions and hopes,  ideas and dreams.  Life as it is. The tapestry of life, in this case, literally so, as well. 

Tapestries after Marc Chagall’s The Black Glove and Harlequins supervised by Yvette Cauquil-Prince, at the exhibition in Vilnius. Photo: Gintare Grigenaite. (C) LNMA. With kind permission.

Tapestry is always about many. Many threads, many leads, many colours, many lines. Many of this all with an aim to create a wholesome picture. As life it is, weaved of many its threads. 

What is especially, emphatically impressive at this unique exhibition in Vilnius and the works displayed there, is the quality and meaning of a detail. There is a feast of fantastically executed but also fantastically planned and visioned details of a great artistic merit. It is an aesthetic miracle and is a very rare opportunity to see it live. 

There is much more than a craft in those tapestries and ceramics. Every single bit of the 12 tapestries and 24 ceramic works is filled with love, attention, understanding, care and humanity.  In this respect, the exhibition in Vilnius is one of the very best masterclasses in humanity which one could see in Europe. 

To me, it has become a blockbuster of good-hearted people: the Chagall and Cauquil-Prince families, the Lithuanian National Museum of Art leadership and curators, and the entire team which has made this charming, meaningful, beautiful manifestation of humanity possible and accessible for us all. 

Tapestry after Marc Chagall’s Les Arlequins. Fragment. Head-master Yvette Cauquil-Prince. 1993. At the exhibition in Vilnius. Photo: Gintare Grigenaite. (C) LNMA. With kind permission.

Chagall – Picasso – Ernst: Tapestries and Ceramics exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts and Design, Vilnius, Lithuania, April 25 – September 30, 2024. 

Part I of the review of the entire Chagall – Picasso – Ernst: Tapestries and Ceramics exhibition can be read here

Part II of the review of the Chagall-Picasso – Ernst: Tapestries and Ceramics exhibition can be read here. 

 

 

About the Author
Inna Rogatchi is author of War & Humanity special project originated in the aftermath of the October 7th, 2023 massacre in Israel. Inna is internationally acclaimed public figure, writer, scholar, artist, art curator and film-maker, the author of widely prized film on Simon Wiesenthal: The Lessons of Survival and other important documentaries on modern history. She is an expert on public diplomacy and was a long-term international affairs adviser for the Members of the European Parliament. She lectures on the topics of international politics and public diplomacy widely. Her professional trade-mark is inter-weave of history, arts, culture and mentality. She is the author of the concept of the Outreach to Humanity cultural and educational projects conducted internationally by The Rogatchi Foundation of which Inna is the co-founder and President. She is also the author of Culture for Humanity concept of The Rogatchi Foundation global initiative that aims to provide psychological comfort to wide audiences by the means of high-class arts and culture in challenging times. Inna is the wife of the world renowned artist Michael Rogatchi. Her family is related to the famous Rose-Mahler musical dynasty. Together with her husband, Inna is a founding member of Music, Art and Memory international cultural educational and commemorative initiative with a multiply projects in several countries. Her professional interests are focused on Jewish heritage, arts and culture, history, Holocaust and post-Holocaust. She is author of several projects on artistic and intellectual studies on various aspect of the Torah and Jewish spiritual heritage. She is twice laureate of the Italian Il Volo di Pegaso Italian National Art, Literature and Music Award, the Patmos Solidarity Award, and the New York Jewish Children's Museum Award for Outstanding Contribution into the Arts and Culture (together with her husband). Inna Rogatchi was the member of the Board of the Finnish National Holocaust Remembrance Association and is member of the International Advisory Board of The Rumbula Memorial Project ( USA). Her art can be seen at Silver Strings: Inna Rogatchi Art site - www.innarogatchiart.com
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