The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
The present work, executed during the height of the Holocaust, depicts "...the pain felt by [Chagall] himself through his sympathy with the fate of his nation and the horrors of war..." (F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1963, p. 435). A native of the small Russian city of Vitebsk, besieged by Nazis from 1941 to 1943, Chagall maintained a strong emotional connection to the shtetl throughout his life. With its blood-red palette and licking flames, La famille ukrainienne depicts an archetype of such a village amid the horrors of war. A Madonna-like mother clutches her child in agony, while her husband attempts to shield his small and seemingly helpless family from the rapidly approaching blaze.
Of the small group of war-themed gouaches executed between 1940 and 1943, Avram Kampf has noted that "Chagall expresses, by means of symbols deeply embedded in the art of the Christian West, the tragic events of the Holocaust and some aspects of its profound religious and historical dimensions" (in Chagall to Kitaj, London, 1990, p. 87).