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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow's Lost Chagall Murals, Finally on View

Famous murals from a Moscow theater, which were painted by Marc Chagall and long feared to have been lost, have gone on show in Vienna. They were painted for the 90-seat Jewish State Chamber Theater and include the huge three-meter-by-eight-meter "Introduction to the Jewish Theater."


Chagall completed this with the other murals in just 30 days in 1920. These vast works are the centerpiece of an exhibition that focuses on Chagall's early years in Russia and his relationship with Jewish culture.


The pictures, painted after his return to Russia from Paris in 1914, use scenes from his native Vitebsk, now in Belarus, to depict life in the shtetl, the Jewish towns in Poland and Russia, creating images such as floating musicians and lovers that appeared in his work again and again.


The exhibition is on at the recently opened Jewish Museum in Vienna. This city was once home to one of the biggest Jewish communities in Europe.


By the end of the 19th century, Jews, emancipated only a century earlier, were playing an important role in the political, artistic and scientific life of the dying Austro-Hungarian empire.


Some of the greatest Viennese, such as Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, composer Gustav Mahler and the playwright Arthur Schnitzler, were Jewish, contributing to the city's turn-of-the-century golden age, when its artists and scientists dazzled Europe.


The community, which once numbered 180,000, is a tenth of that today, swollen by immigrants from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.


One of the first acts of the German occupiers was to close Vienna's Jewish museum, the first in the world when it opened in 1897.


The new museum, housed in a city palazzo owned in the early 19th century by two ennobled Jewish bankers, has taken over the 80 percent of the old museum's collection that survived the war.


Restoring and cataloguing it will take two years.


The new museum aims to be not just a memorial to the suffering and destruction of Vienna's Jews but to show today's people the "splendor and tragedy" of Jewish-Gentile relations in Austria and Europe.


The new museum attracted 30,000 visitors to its opening exhibitions -- one on Freud and the other on Jewish life in the city before the war.


Called "This is where Teitelbaum lived," it traces Vienna's Jewish community from the middle ages to the present.


The title symbolizes the disappearance of the Jewish community -- in 1938 the Vienna telephone directory listed 16 Teitelbaums. Today there are none.