Marc Chagall’s Illustrations for Gogol’s “Dead Souls” on View at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

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TEL AVIV.- In the spring of 1931, Marc Chagall set sail for a visit in Eretz-Israel. He had been invited by Tel Aviv Mayor Meir Dizengoff, following their acquaintance in Paris in 1930. Chagall was taken with Dizengoff’s passion to establish a museum in the emerging Jewish city, and agreed to join the Paris Committee set up to promote the project. Chagall brought a gift, his series of prints illustrating Nikolai Gogol’s novel ‘Dead Souls’. The series was personally dedicated to Dizengoff, and was intended to enrich the collection of the museum, due to open in 1932. At the center of Gogol’s “Human Comedy” Dead Souls is the character of Chichikov, a charming, shrewd scoundrel, who buys from landowners dead serfs whose names have not yet been taken off the official census, that is, the “dead souls” that must be disposed of in order to avoid paying serf tax for them. Chichikov intends to present these souls as living persons, “deposit” them as collateral against a bank loan, se