Mania was one of Chagall's six sisters (see illustration).
In the spring of 1914, Chagall travelled to his native town of Vitebsk for a short visit to his family. However, the outbreak of the War made his return to Paris impossible, and he remained in Vitebsk until the summer of 1915.
Mania à Table is one of fifty or sixty works which he painted during this period, inspired by the profound attachment he felt to his family and Vitebsk. Many are almost naturalistic descriptions of his surroundings, and his relations and neighbours. With no supply of canvas, most are executed in gouache or oil on card or paper. These pictures, as F. W. Halle says, express "the joy of the prodigal son, of reunion and recovery after a long separation. And besides that: there is also the joy of the discoverer who observes this 'new world' with entirely new eyes. And who now greets and embraces it and pieces together its fragments with the same glowing passion with which previously in Paris he had disintegrated its forms into a thousand pieces" (F. W. Halle, 'Marc Chagall', Das Kunstblatt, Potsdam, 1922, no. 6, p. 515).
At first Chagall worked in a room in an outbuilding of a tenant called Belin, and later rented one from a policeman who lived nearby. Chagall's wife Bella recalled "His little house, white with red shutters, like the white cap with the red ribbon policemen wear in summer, stood at the end of the street" (B. Chagall, Die ershte Bagegnish, New York, 1947).
These paintings may be classified by their subject matter: "The majority are devoted to the family. Thus Chagall depicted his Grandmother making jam (M.168), his father with a glass of tea (M.229), his mother baking (M.167) or taking a nap (M.166). We see his brother David singing and playing the mandolin (Meyer, op. cit., p. 226), one of his sisters dreaming at the window with an open book in her hand (M.176), another slicing a big loaf of bread for supper (M. 175)...
But these studies have a more than merely anecdotal value. Chagall's tender devotion transforms then into winged witnesses of lyrical intimacy. The visual reality - the people with their wrinkles and grimaces, the utensils and furnishings - is not slavishly copied as if nothing else existed. The free weightless rhythm of the Paris pictures pervades these studies too, though after a more delicate or playfully gayer fashion. Chagall's inner freedom is now so great that he can devote himself - even if only for a brief space - to unpretentious themes" (F. Meyer, ibid, p. 219).
Chagall's return to Vitebsk also allowed him to be reunited with his beloved Bella, who in February 1914 had finished her studies in History and Philosophy in Moscow. She succeeded in obtaining her parent's permission to marry Chagall, and the wedding took place on 25 July 1915.