Chagall's Mystical Dance
Marc Chagall, born Movsha Shagal, was born in the Belorussian city of Vitebsk in 1887. At the time of his birth, Vitebsk's population was around 66,000, half of whom were Jewish. A city of many churches and synagogues, it was called "Russian Toledo," after the former cultural center of the Spanish Empire. Mostly wooden structures, none of the original city survived the highly organized and focused destruction of all Jewish ethnic culture during the three years of Nazi occupation.
Chagall was the eldest of nine children in a close-knit Jewish family led by his father Khatskl Shagal, a fish merchant, and his mother, Feige who sold groceries from their home.
What little is known about Chagallís early life comes from his autobiograhy, My Life, in which he describes the influence Hasidic Judaism had on his life as an artist. Vitebsk itself had been a center of that culture dating from the 1730s with its teachings derived from the Kabalah.