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Past Exhibition

Abraham Entertaining the Angels

oil painting of group, including men and angels, seated on earthen floor

Rembrandt van Rijn
Abraham Entertaining the Angels, 1646
Oil on oak panel
6 3/8 x 8 3/8 inches (16.1 x 21.1 cm)
Private collection
Photo: Michael Bodycomb

In this depiction of the foretelling of Isaac’s birth, Rembrandt portrays the three visitors in the process of transforming from mortal flesh into the divine. The angel closest to the picture plane largely retains the appearance of a traveler, his wings tucked behind his back. To his left, a second angel raises his wings and receives more light; yet he eats, indicating that he has not shed his earthly body. Finally, the figure at center spreads his wings, his radiant form no longer flesh and blood but an entirely immaterial presence. At right, Abraham pauses — his thumb poised on the open lid of the pitcher — and Sarah stands in the doorway behind him. They have not yet grasped what is taking place but are at the cusp of revelation, suspended between seeing and understanding.