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Document Details :
Title: A Parokhet as a Picture
Subtitle: Chagall's Prayer Desk (1908-1909)
Author(s): RAJNER, Mirjam
Journal: Studia Rosenthaliana
Volume: 37 Date: 2004
A little-known painting by Marc Chagall usually referred to as the Prayer Desk and dated 1909 shows a Torah Ark curtain or parokhet hung above a low narrow table. Franz Meyer suggested that this work was painted in a private home in Narva, a small town on the Baltic coast where Chagall used to visit a wealthy Jewish family of industrialists, the Germonts. They were his patron, the lawyer Grigory A. Goldberg’s in-laws, and as an art student studying in St Petersburg, Chagall often spent his vacations at their home. Meyer describes the painting as ‘the paraphernalia used in the [Germont] family devotions’. This would have been an unusual practice for a Jewish family. For a service to include a reading from the Torah, a quorum of ten men (a minyan) must be present. This makes it a communal ceremony, in contrast to the private devotions practised among aristocratic Christian families with chapels attached to their homes. Moreover, the parokhet in Chagall’s painting hangs flat against the wall rather than covering an Ark containing a Torah scroll, which is its function, and which would require much greater depth.