Jacob impersonates his elder brother Esau in order to receive the blessing of their father Isaac, a scheme conceived by Rebecca, the blind man’s wife. Rembrandt made several drawings of the Old Testament subject in the 1640s, and a few of his pupils followed suit. In this case Van den Eeckhout emulates the master’s style more successfully than his gift for effective staging.
This is an early work by Van den Eeckhout, painted in 1642, when he was about twenty-one years old and had been out of Rembrandt's studio for two or three years. Earlier paintings by the artist include another Isaac Blessing Jacob, dated 1641 (art market, London, ca. 1914 ), and The Presentation of Christ in the Temple of 1641 (not 1671; Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest). Several biblical pictures of the early 1640s are known, including Gideon's Sacrifice (location unknown), The Dismissal of Hagar (formerly Edzard collection, Munich), and Jacob's Dream (Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw), each of which is dated 1642, and Joseph Telling His Dreams, dated 1643 (Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina). The majority of these subjects were especially popular in Rembrandt's circle.
Like most of his colleagues, Van den Eeckhout shows Isaac's son Jacob kneeling for the blind patriarch's blessing, as contrived by Isaac's wife, Rebekah. The firstborn, Esau, had been sent out by his father to hunt for venison, which was to be enjoyed by Isaac before he conveyed his legacy. Rebekah then instructed Jacob, who was her favorite son, to fetch "two good kids of the goats," one of which is seen served on the table together with salt in a silver cellar, bread, a knife and napkin, and an extravagant vessel for wine. Jacob wears his brother's "goodly raiment" and quiver, and the kids' hair upon his hands, so that he would feel like the rougher Esau to his father's touch. Esau enters in the background, and will soon discover how he has been cheated out of his blessing, as well as his birthright (Genesis 25:29–34).
Unfortunately, none of this is effectively staged by Van den Eeckhout, who makes Isaac look slow-witted rather than trusting, Rebekah didactic rather than duplicitous, and the sons mere props, with Jacob's face turned away from the viewer. A comparison with Govert Flinck's 1638 painting of the same subject (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) shows how much the young artist might have achieved had he been concerned more with the figures' emotions than with their household goods. The arrangement of the exotic bed, with its fancy head- and footboard, the canopy above, the table, and the platform seems to have been inspired by Rembrandt's famous Danaë of 1636 (Hermitage, Saint Petersburg), which is thought to have been reworked by Rembrandt himself in the early 1640s.
The silver ewer stands for the riches that Jacob will inherit, and reproduces one of the first masterpieces of the auricular style in the Netherlands, Adam van Vianen's covered ewer (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) made in 1614 for the Amsterdam guild of silversmiths (of which Van den Eeckhout's father was a member). The piece was commissioned in memory of Van Vianen's brother Paulus, who had died the year before in Prague. Adam van Vianen was highly esteemed by artists and collectors, and this particular example of his work captured the imagination of numerous painters, no doubt in part because its bizarre form allowed it to pass as an object from an ancient and foreign land. Pieter Lastman (1583–1633) included the ewer in at least seven pictures dating from between 1615 and 1630. Other Dutch artists who incorporated the ewer in one or more paintings include Adriaen van Nieulandt (1587–1658), in a large kitchen still life dated 1616 (Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig); Thomas de Keyser, in a group portrait of the Amsterdam silversmiths' guild, dated 1627 (formerly Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg; destroyed in World War II); Jacob Backer, in David and Bathsheba of 1640 (art market, 1996); Salomon Koninck (1609–1656), in King Solomon's Idolatry of 1644 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), and at least five other paintings; and Flinck, in Marcus Curtius Dentatus Refusing the Gifts of the Samnites, dated 1656 (Royal Palace, Amsterdam). Van den Eeckhout himself passed the object on from Isaac's house to King David's palace (1646; Národni Galerie, Prague), and to scenes of Scipio's continence (ca. 1652; Instituut Collectie Nederland, Amsterdam) and Joseph returned to his brothers (ca. 1668; Skokloster Castle, Sweden).
[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower center): G V -eeckhout / ANo [AN in monogram] 1642
?Elizabeth Hooft, widow of Wouter Valckenier, Amsterdam (until d. 1796; her estate sale, C. Blasius et al., Amsterdam, August 31–September 1, 1796, no. 10, for fl. 630); ?Pieter Nicolaas Simonsz. van Winter, Amsterdam (until d. 1807); ?his daughter, Anna Louisa Agatha van Winter, Amsterdam (1807–d. 1877; sold to Rothschild); ?Alphonse, Gustave, or Edmond de Rothschild, Paris (from 1877); Collis P. Huntington, New York (until d. 1900; life interest to his widow, Arabella D. Huntington, later [from 1913] Mrs. Henry E. Huntington, 1900–d. 1924; life interest to their son, Archer Milton Huntington, 1924–terminated in 1925)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of Rembrandt," January 21–?, 1942, no catalogue.
Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 14.
New York. Jewish Museum. "The Hebrew Bible in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Art," February 18–March 24, 1963, no. 46.
Little Rock. Arkansas Arts Center. "Five Centuries of European Painting," May 16–October 26, 1963, unnumbered cat. (p. 26).
Art Institute of Chicago. "Rembrandt after Three Hundred Years," October 21–December 7, 1969, no. 45.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Rembrandt after Three Hundred Years," December 29, 1969–February 1, 1970, no. 45.
Detroit Institute of Arts. "Rembrandt after Three Hundred Years," February 24–April 5, 1970, no. 45.
Milwaukee Art Center. "The Bible through Dutch Eyes: From Genesis through the Apocrypha," April 9–May 23, 1976, no. 13.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Nederlands Zilver/Dutch Silver, 1580–1830," May 13–June 22, 1980, not in catalogue.
The Hague. Mauritshuis. "Great Dutch Paintings from America," September 28, 1990–January 13, 1991, no. 19.
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Great Dutch Paintings from America," February 16–May 5, 1991, no. 19.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 47.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
Bryson Burroughs. "The Collis P. Huntington Collection Comes to the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (June 1925), p. 142, ill. p. 146.
Daniel Catton Rich. Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Etchings by Rembrandt and His Circle. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1935, p. 24, under no. 16.
George Isarlov. "Rembrandt et son entourage." La renaissance 19 (1936), p. 34.
William M. Ivins Jr. "The Art of Rembrandt." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 37 (January 1942), pp. 3–4.
Heidi Heimann inThe Bible in Art: Miniatures, Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures Inspired by the Old Testament. London, 1956, p. 212, pl. 55.
Werner Sumowski. "Nachträge zum Rembrandtjahr 1956." Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 7, no. 2 (1957/58), p. 239, fig. 127.
Werner Sumowski. "Gerbrand van den Eeckhout als Zeichner." Oud Holland 77, no. 1 (1962), pp. 11–12, includes it among paintings by Eeckhout that show the influence of Pieter Lastman.
Th. M. Duyvené de Wit-Klinkhamer. "Een vermaarde zilveren beker." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 17 (1966), p. 91, fig. 13 (detail), notes that the painting includes a depiction of a silver ewer by Adam van Vianen [see Notes].
Bob Haak. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, His Time. New York, , p. 183, fig. 294.
J. Richard Judson inRembrandt After Three Hundred Years. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. [Chicago], 1969, pp. 57–58, no. 45, ill. p. 129, relates it to a drawing of this subject by Rembrandt (about 1640–42; formerly Van Diemen collection, Berlin; Benesch III, cat. no. 507); tentatively includes a sale of April 24, 1737, The Hague, in the provenance of the picture.
R. Roy. "Studien zu Gerbrand van den Eeckhout." PhD diss., Universität Wien, 1972, pp. 7–9, 212, no. 11 [see Ref. Broos 1990].
A. Pigler. Barockthemen: Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. 2nd ed. [first ed. 1956]. Budapest, 1974, vol. 1, p. 60.
Alfred Bader. The Bible through Dutch Eyes: From Genesis through the Apocrypha. Exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Center. Milwaukee, 1976, pp. 36–37, no. 13, ill.
Reiner Haussherr. Rembrandts Jacobssegen: Überlegungen zur Deutung des Gemäldes in der Kasseler Galerie. Opladen, Germany, 1976, pp. 27–28, fig. 19.
Werner Sumowski. Drawings of the Rembrandt School. Ed. Walter L. Strauss. Vol. 3, New York, 1980, p. 1320, under no. 605, compares it with Eeckhout's drawing "David's Promise to Bathsheba" (MMA 41.187.4).
Jacques Foucart inGods, Saints & Heroes: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1980, p. 163.
Ben Broos. Oude tekeningen in het bezit van de Gemeentemusea van Amsterdam waaronder de collectie Fodor. Vol. 3, Rembrandt en tekenaars uit zijn omgeving. Amsterdam, 1981, p. 110, under no. 29.
Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 2, G. van den Eeckhout–I. de Joudreville. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], pp. 720, 726, no. 397, ill. p. 760 (color).
Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 6, Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], p. 3600.
Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 183.
Jacques Foucart. Peintres rembranesques au Louvre. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1988, p. 85.
Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, p. 37.
Peter C. Sutton. Northern European Paintings in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: From the Sixteenth through the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia, 1990, pp. 82–83 n. 17.
Ben Broos. Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis. The Hague, 1990, pp. 224–28, no. 19, ill. (color), adds the sale of Elizabeth Valckenier-Hooft, Amsterdam, 1796, to the provenance of the picture, but also incorrectly includes the work in sales of 1921 and 1925.
Walter Liedtke inRembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, , pp. 20, 22, 145, no. 47, ill.
Carolyn Logan inRembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, , p. 197, under no. 83.
B. P. J. Broos inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 9, New York, 1996, p. 742, fig. 1.
Timothy Schroder inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 32, New York, 1996, p. 401.
Ruud Priem. "The 'most excellent collection' of Lucretia Johanna van Winter: The Years 1809–22, with a Catalogue of the Works Purchased." Simiolus 25, no. 2/3 (1997), p. 219, no. 58, in a preliminary list of paintings from the collection of Pieter van Winter, includes "Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph," by Eeckhout, possibly this work.
Jean-Louis Gaillemin. "L'ornement sans nom." Connaissance des arts no. 537 (March 1997), pp. 96–97, ill. (color detail).
V[olker]. Manuth inAllgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Vol. 32, Munich, 2002, p. 236.
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 18.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 185–190, no. 42, colorpl. 42, fig. 47 (color detail); vol. 2, p. 910.
Artist: Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (Dutch, Amsterdam 1621–1674 Amsterdam)Date: 1650Medium: Pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash, over black chalk. Framing line in pen and brown ink.Accession: 65.104On view in:Not on view
Artist: Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (Dutch, Amsterdam 1621–1674 Amsterdam)Date: 1642–43Medium: Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over black and red chalk, with framing line in pen and black inkAccession: 41.187.4On view in:Not on view