Marc Chagall, the Jewish painter famed for his mystical shtetl scenes, is one of Pope Francis’s favorite artists. But the pontiff’s favorite Chagall is not one of a fiddler on the roof, but his dramatic “White Crucifixion.”
This was one of the revelations made public in an exclusive interview carried out by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, and published simultaneously last week in several Jesuit journals around the world.
News reports focused on the pope’s statements faulting the church for being “obsessed” by issues such as gays, abortion and birth control. But the wide-ranging conversation also touched on his personal preferences in the arts and culture.
“Among the great painters, I admire Caravaggio; his paintings speak to me,” he said. “But also Chagall, with his ‘White Crucifixion.”’
Chagall painted “The White Crucifixion” in 1938 in response to the persecution of Jews by the Nazis and others. The painting, which is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, shows Jesus as a Jew, wrapped in a prayer shawl, crucified against a background of anti-Jewish violence, including the torching of a synagogue.
In music, Francis told Spadaro that he loves Mozart — especially, he said, when performed by the Romanian-born Jewish pianist Clara Haskil, who died in 1960.
“I love Mozart performed by Clara Haskil,” he said. “Mozart fulfills me. But I cannot think about his music; I have to listen to it.”
The pope also named Richard Wagner as another of his favorite composers. Wagner’s music is rejected by many Jews because of his anti-Semitism.
For the record, the pope’s favorite movie is Fellini’s “La Strada.”