Including: The Tribe of Ruben; The Tribe of Siméon; The Tribe of Lévi; The Tribe of Judah; The Tribe of Zabulon; The Tribe of Issachar; The Tribe of Dan; The Tribe of Gad; The Tribe of Asher; The Tribe of Naphtali; The Tribe of Joseph; and The Tribe of Benjamin
The Jerusalem Windows were originally conceived and executed in 1962 for the synagogue attached to Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, the first hospital in the state of Israel. This commission marked Chagall's inaugural collaboration in the medium of stained glass, a first encounter that proved seamless to the already well-established painter and engraver. The Windows were later translated into lithographic form in 1964, as the Twelve Maquettes of Stained Glass Windows for Jerusalem, by Marc Chagall and his master printer Charles Sorlier at Atelier Mourlot (the current set is auspiciously numbered XII [twelve] of LXXV).
The Windows depict a decisive moment in the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 49, when Jacob, the founder of the Jewish nation, blesses each of his twelve sons as individual tribes and unites them as Israel. Jacob provides each with a blessing in accordance with their strengths and weaknesses of character. One by one his sons are shown a vision of their descendants and the future contributions they will make to the nation of Israel, the integration of each son's gift being presented as a foundation for a nation of diversity and might. Levi's tribe will be priests; Judah's the Kings; Gad's will be warriors; Zebulan's people of the sea; Dan's the judges; and so forth.
While emblems of each tribe -- such as a crown for Judah or scale of Justice for Dan -- differentiate the images, Chagall's overall rendering of Jacob's blessings moves beyond the literal. Each maquette is populated by fluid free-floating forms. As Julian Cain notes in his introductory essay to the plates, weightlessly "suspended between heaven and earth" are the fish, cows, bouquets of flowers, and religious symbols that characterize Chagall's oeuvre. With his signature vibrant color combinations and masterful painterly effect, an idyllic notion of the necessary elements of the new state of Israel is formed. For Marc Chagall the Bible was "very much alive...at one moment [it is] history, or it's a novel, or sometimes pure poetry."*
* As quoted in Ulrike Gauss, ed. Marc Chagall: the Lithographs, La Collection Sorlier, a Catalogue Raisonnéi [Ostfildern: Hatje and New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 1998], 32.