The Musée National Marc Chagall with its Biblical Message paintings cycle is one of the top cultural attractions and art museums of Nice on the Côte d’Azur.
The Marc Chagall National Museum of The Biblical Message is a top museum in Nice and worth visiting when on the French Riviera. The main attractions are the 12 large paintings by Chagall depicting key events from the Old Testament of the Bible. The museum was purposely built to house these paintings during the lifetime of Chagall and is an excellent forum for exhibiting his work. Although a very popular attraction for visiting on rainy days, the art is best seen on sunny days when the number of visitors is often much lower.
Marc Chagall on the Côte d’Azur
The Russian-born Jewish artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985) is a world-famous modernist artist who worked in almost all mediums including paintings, book illustrations, stained glass windows, tapestries, and mosaics.
Chagall’s stained glass windows are used in many churches, e.g. Reims, Zurich, and Mainz, and public buildings, e.g. Hebrew University in Jerusalem and United Nations Building in New York. He famously painted the ceiling of the Paris Opera.
Chagall lived on the Côte d’Azur from 1948 until his death. However, many of his works, including the paintings on display in this museum, still show influences from his childhood in Russia (now Belarus).
The National Marc Chagall Museum
The Musée National Marc Chagall was purposely built in the early 1970s to house the cycle of 12 oil on (very large) canvass paintings Chagall donated to the French state in 1966. Interlacing three diamond shapes, the architect André Hermant created twelve separate walls to hang each work individually.
This Biblical Message illustrates twelve key events from Genesis and Exodus, the first two books of the Jewish and Christian Bibles. The emphasis in the cycle is man’s relations with God. The themes will be instantly recognizable to all believers but all visitors will be able to enjoy the art and symbolism, which are well explained in the free audio guide. Blue, green, and yellow are very prominent in this cycle.
The twelve themes, in the display rather than chronological order, are:
- The Creation of Man
- Abraham and the Three Angels
- The Sacrifice of Isaac
- Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
- Moses and the Burning Bush
- Striking the Rock
- Jacob’s Dream
- Noah and the Rainbow
- Noah’s Ark
- Adam and Eve Banished from Paradise
- Moses Receiving the Ten Commandments
A further major series on display is a set of five paintings of the Song of Songs. These works hang in a more intimate chapel-like room where red is the prominent color. The three dimensions in these paintings are musical, sacred, and carnal.
In addition to the main exhibits, the museum also has a few works from all periods of Chagall’s life on permanent display. Don’t miss the large mosaic illustrating the life of the Prophet Elijah. (A further large Chagall mosaic can be seen at the Faculty of Law at the University of Nice.)
Temporary exhibitions highlight specific themes. It is worth seeing the film (English subtitles) for a comprehensive overview of Chagall’s life and work.
Admission Tickets and Opening Hours for the Chagall Museum
The National Marc Chagall Museum is one of the very few museums in Nice that actually charge admission. Admission is €7.50 for adults, €5.50 for children, but free to EU residents under 26.
The museum is open Wednesday to Monday from 10 am to 5 pm (6 pm from May to October). The museum is closed on January 1, May 1, and December 25.
The buvette in the garden serves small meals in the open air or under canvass in bad weather. (Closed in January) It offers free wifi.
Transportation to the Marc Chagall Museum in Nice
The Musée national Marc Chagall is on the corner of Avenue du Docteur Ménard and Boulevard de Cimiez. Free parking is available.
By bus, use stop Musée Chagall on line 15 or, on weekends only, bus 22. Both buses continue uphill to Arènes Musée Matisse making a combination visit easy on the same day.
See also The Picasso Museum in Antibes.