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Past Exhibition

All Objects

  • Rembrandt etching depicting biblical scene of Abraham casting Hagar and Ishmael

    Rembrandt van Rijn
    Abraham Casting Out Hagar and Ishmael, 1637
    Etching with touches of drypoint, only state
    4 7/8 x 3 3/4 inches (12.5 x 9.5 cm)
    The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

    In Genesis 21, in accordance with Sarah’s wishes and the Lord’s command, Abraham reluctantly banishes his firstborn, Ishmael, and the boy’s mother, the slave Hagar. Rembrandt depicts this scene as a sorrowful farewell witnessed with pleasure by Sarah and Isaac. Torn between his two families, Abraham stands on the threshold of his home, his outstretched arms conveying his conflicted feelings and his helplessness in the face of God’s will.

  • Rembrandt etching depicting biblical figures, Abraham is seated and caressing Isaac

    Rembrandt van Rijn
    Abraham Caressing Isaac, ca. 1637–45
    Etching, state I/IV
    4 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (11.6 x 8.9 cm)
    The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

    Depicting no specific biblical episode, this image portrays Abraham’s affection for a beloved son. In his arms, the patriarch holds Isaac or, quite possibly, Ishmael, running his fingers through the boy’s hair and stroking his chin. While the child is completely at ease, secure in his father’s arms, Abraham’s outward stare and sober expression remind the viewer of the sacrifice, or the banishment, to come.

  • Rembrandt etching depicting biblical scene where Abraham is speaking to Isaac

    Rembrandt van Rijn
    Abraham and Isaac, 1645
    Etching and burin, state I/II
    6 1/8 x 5 1/8 inches (15.7 x 13 cm)
    The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

    In Genesis 22, Isaac, unaware of the nature of the sacrifice that the Lord has commanded Abraham to make, asks why no lamb is present. His father answers that the Lord will provide the lamb. Just beyond Abraham’s pointed finger, rays of light break through the gathering clouds, anticipating the arrival of the intervening angel sent by God.

  • 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.

  • Rembrandt van Rijn
    Abraham Entertaining the Angels, 1656
    Etching and drypoint on Japanese paper, only state
    6 5/16 x 5 1/8 inches (16.1 x 13 cm)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington
    New Century Fund, 2005

    View related copper plate

    Ten years after depicting Genesis 18 in oil, Rembrandt produced this very different treatment of the scene, now emphatically identifying one of the three visitors as the Lord. Two winged angels with distinctive, masculine features accompany him. These hybrid creatures are at once the travelers Abraham sees with his eyes and the divine messengers he is beginning to understand them to be. At the center of the image is Abraham’s son Ishmael, whose banishment was an eventual consequence of Isaac’s birth.

  • Rembrandt van Rijn
    Abraham Entertaining the Angels, 1656
    Etched copper plate with drypoint
    6 3/8 x 5 1/4 inches (16.2 x 13.3 cm)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington
    Gift of Ladislaus and Beatrix von Hoffmann and Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1997

    View related print

    This copper plate, on which Rembrandt created his 1656 Abraham Entertaining the Angels, is a rare example of a plate that preserves Rembrandt’s original etched lines with no later reworking. It makes evident the contrast of light and dark around which the artist structured the image. On the right side of the plate, dense crosshatching creates the shadowy recesses of the doorway in which Sarah appears, while a minimum of marks in and around the figure of Ishmael produces the effect of gleaming sunlight.

  • Rembrandt's ink drawing on paper depicting biblical scene in which the Lord, carried by two cherubim, descends to earth and Abraham has fallen to the floor, overcome by this

    Rembrandt van Rijn
    God Making His Covenant with Abraham, ca. 1656–58
    Pen and ink on paper
    7 3/4 x 10 1/2 inches (19.7 x 26.6 cm)
    Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
    Photo Herbert Boswank

    View related drawing

    Rembrandt captures one of God’s appearances to Abraham with a mass of energetic marks. Between and around these thick, inky lines, the untouched paper gleams, creating the effect of intense light, amid which the Lord, carried by two cherubim, descends to earth in a swirl of fabric and clouds. In response, an overcome Abraham has dropped his walking stick and fallen to the ground, physically unable to take in the splendor before him.

  • Rembrandt van Rijn
    God the Father Supported by Angels, ca. 1656–58
    Pen and ink on paper
    7 15/16 x 5 1/4 inches (20.1 x 13.3 cm)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington
    Widener Collection, 1942

    View related drawing

    Rembrandt elaborates the figure of God from a related drawing (on loan from Dresden), now detailing his beard and hollowed cheeks. The two cherubim exert great effort to support the weight of his body. Long, fluid strokes suggest the flowing, windswept drapery of the three figures as they move through the air.

  • Rembrandt's ink drawing on paper depicting biblical scene of Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac

    Rembrandt van Rijn
    Sacrifice of Isaac, ca. 1652–54
    Pen and ink on paper
    7 1/8 x 6 1/8 inches (18 x 15.5 cm)
    Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
    Photo Herbert Boswank

    In this sheet, Rembrandt emphasizes the violence of Isaac’s near sacrifice. Abraham bends over his son’s bound body and, as he brings the knife to his throat, covers the boy’s mouth to stop his cries. Senseless to the hand on his own head, the patriarch is not yet aware of the angel hovering above him.

  • Rembrandt van Rijn
    Sacrifice of Isaac, 1655
    Etching and drypoint, only state
    6 1/8 x 5 1/8 inches (15.6 x 13.1 cm)
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    Bequest of Ida Kammerer, in memory of her husband, Frederic Kammerer, 1933

    Wings spread, wind coursing through its hair, the angel rushes in to grip Abraham’s arms as the sky breaks open with light. Abraham turns his head, his open mouth conveying surprise and confusion. His darkened eyes seem not to perceive the angel but to focus instead on the ram in the shadows at left, its curved spine sharing a contour with the angel’s wing, its hind leg and tail immediately to the left of the billowing sleeve. Provided by the Lord to be sacrificed in Isaac’s stead, the animal is the flesh and blood manifestation of the immaterial angel’s intervention.