This depiction of a mother with her arm around her small son is one of the earliest of Marc Chagall’s (1887–1985) numerous printed works. It is part of a series of 20 etchings that the artist created in 1923 for his autobiography ‘My Life’, which illustrated Chagall’s childhood and youth in the Jewish quarter of Vitebsk (Belarus).
According to Chagall’s narration, his mother Feiga-Ita held the reins in the family. Earnings from her small shop supplemented the modest income his father earned during his 32 years of packing fish. The artist depicts his mother as an energetic, stocky woman with a kind smile, leading her son along at a lively pace. The figures’ fragmented contours give them a buoyant, nimble lightness, with no connection to their surroundings and seemingly free of gravity. It appears to be the memory of a world that has since disappeared, captured by the artist graphically.