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In 1927 the art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard commissioned Chagall to illustrate La Fontaine's Fables, which were published years later by Tériade in 1952.

La Fontaine, a 17th century French writer, is regarded as one of the foremost representatives of this genre; and his Fables are considered a masterpiece of French literature.

When Chagall illustrated these moralising stories, he came close to the Russian tradition, to icons and lubki –colourful prints in Russian popular culture– accompanied by simple texts and traditionally used to instruct the uneducated.

He was also fascinated by animals. According to his own testimony, he had grown up in a village and animals were part of his childhood and his life. Calves, cows, pigs, frogs, foxes, roosters, ants... all create a magical imaginary that faithfully reflects the writer's fantasy and irony.

La Fontaine and Chagall, although they belonged to different periods, did have aspects in common: a taste for popular traditions, reflection on human behaviour and an overflowing imagination. This picture book thus creates a profound symbiosis between the idea, the text and the image.

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