Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Abraham's Parting from the Family of Lot

Jan Victors (Dutch, Amsterdam 1619–1676/77 East Indies)
ca. 1655–65
Oil on canvas
58 x 65 1/8 in. (147.3 x 165.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, 1871
Accession Number:
Not on view
For at least one hundred twenty years, this late work by Victors was thought to represent Jacob and Laban. Its far less familiar subject, first identified by Manuth (1987), is actually Abraham's departure for Canaan, leaving Lot and his family, who will set off for Sodom (Genesis 13). Victors's Old Testament pictures can require close reading, occasionally because of free interpretation, but more often because of unexpected subject matter. It seems likely that the artist's orthodox Calvinist beliefs, and like-minded patrons, directed him to certain biblical passages, much as they required him to avoid others.

Abraham and his nephew Lot (whose father, Haran, has died) have journeyed from Egypt to the plain of Jordan, where there is a dispute between their respective herdsmen about grazing land. Abraham generously tells Lot to choose whatever territory he would prefer: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" (Genesis 13:8–9).

In the painting, Lot's well-known strain of weakness is written plainly on his face and in his posture. Like his daughters, who will eventually seduce him (Genesis 19:31–35), Lot sits idly at the dinner table (not mentioned in the Bible), while Abraham, in a fur-lined robe, gestures with Mosaic decisiveness. Lot's wife, who later becomes the pillar of salt, appears to smile at the patriarch's largess. In the background, herders debate the issue, while sheep as thick as cotton graze the land that was "not able to bear them" (Genesis 13:6).

Victors's late work reveals little stylistic development, although there is a falling off of quality at the end. This canvas, which is characteristically oversize, probably dates from about 1655–65.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (right): Jan Victors
?by descent to Martin, comte Cornet de Ways Ruart, Brussels (until d. 1870); [Étienne Le Roy, Brussels, through Léon Gauchez, Paris, until 1870; sold to Blodgett]; William T. Blodgett, Paris and New York (1870–71; sold half share to Johnston); William T. Blodgett, New York, and John Taylor Johnston, New York (1871; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 55.

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.

Catalogue of the Pictures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, No. 681 Fifth Avenue, in the City of New York. [New York], 1872, p. 28, no. 51, as "Jacob and Laban".

F[ritz von]. Harck. "Berichte und Mittheilungen aus Sammlungen und Museen, über staatliche Kunstpflege und Restaurationen, neue Funde: Aus amerikanischen Galerien." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 11 (1888), p. 76, as Laban admonishing Jacob ("Jacob Laban ermahnend"), a good work by Jan Victors.

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 4, Ch. Paudiss–Anonyme. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], p. 2609, no. 1780, ill. p. 2680, accepts Manuth's [see Ref. 1987] identification of the subject and Miller's [see Ref. 1985] dating.

Debra Miller. "Jan Victors (1619–76)." PhD diss., University of Delaware, 1985, vol. 1, pp. 97, 293, no. 42, as "Jacob and Laban"; calls it a late work and dates it about 1655–76.

Volker Manuth. "Ikonographische Studien zu den Historien des Alten Testaments bei Rembrandt und seiner frühen Amsterdamer Schule." PhD diss., Freie Universität Berlin, 1987, pp. 151–53, no. 2, fig. 110, identifies the subject as Abraham leaving Lot and his family.

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/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, [1995], p. 153, no. 55, ill., as "Abraham's Parting from the Family of Lot"; dates it about 1670.

Katharine Baetjer. "Buying Pictures for New York: The Founding Purchase of 1871." Metropolitan Museum Journal 39 (2004), pp. 183, 197, 203, 244–45, appendix 1A no. 51, ill.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 2, pp. 911–12, no. 209, colorpl. 209, dates it about 1655–65.

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