Past Exhibition

Zurbarán's Jacob and His Twelve Sons: Paintings from Auckland Castle
January 31, 2018 to April 22, 2018
photo of Zurbaran paintings in Auckland Castle dining room

In collaboration with the Meadows Museum, Dallas, Texas, and The Auckland Project, County Durham, England, The Frick Collection organized an exhibition of Jacob and His Twelve Sons, an ambitious series of thirteen paintings that depict over life-size figures from the Old Testament. On loan from Auckland Castle, the works by the Spanish Golden Age master Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) had never before traveled to the United States. They were first presented at the Meadows Museum in the fall of 2017, and were on view at The Frick Collection from January 31 through April 22, 2018. In preparation for this unprecedented American tour, these important seventeenth-century Spanish paintings, dating from the 1640s, have undergone a year-long in-depth technical analysis in the conservation department at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, the most extensive study of the series to date. Susan Grace Galassi, Senior Curator at The Frick Collection, was the coordinating curator of the exhibition for its New York presentation.

About the Series

The iconography of Zurbarán’s remarkable series is derived from the Blessings of Jacob in Chapter 49 of the Book of Genesis, a poem that has significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. On his deathbed, Jacob called together his sons, who would become the founders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. He bestowed on each a blessing, which foretold their destinies and those of their tribes. Jacob’s prophecies provide the basis for the manner in which the figures are represented in Zurbarán’s series. For his compositions, the artist drew inspiration from northern European prints.

The series was likely intended for export to the New World. In seventeenth-century Spain, it was commonly believed that indigenous peoples of the Americas were descended from the so-called “lost tribes of Israel.” The paintings, however, did not come to light until the 1720s in England when they appeared at auction and were purchased by a Jewish merchant. In 1756 they were acquired by Richard Trevor, Bishop of Durham, a supporter of Jewish rights. Trevor hung them in the dining room at Auckland Castle, where they have remained for over 250 years. A two-year restoration of Auckland Castle presents this extraordinary study and exhibition opportunity.

Commented Frick Director Ian Wardropper, “We are thrilled to collaborate with Auckland Castle and the Meadows Museum on the first North American showing of Francisco de Zurbarán’s extraordinary series Jacob and His Twelve Sons. The technical analysis carried out at the Kimbell has greatly enriched our understanding of the master’s methods, while catalogue essays commissioned for the show explore the works in historical, cultural, and religious contexts. The sheer visual power and rich narrative content of this series will draw visitors in and will be beautifully complemented by the Frick’s strong holdings in Spanish art, which include paintings by Velázquez and Murillo — Zurbarán’s Sevillian contemporaries — as well as by El Greco and Goya.”

Exhibition Venues

  • The Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas | September 17, 2017, through January 7, 2018
  • The Frick Collection, New York | January 31, 2018, through April 22, 2018
  • In May 2018, the panels will return to Auckland Castle, Durham, UK

Related news from Auckland Castle

Zurbarán's Jacob and His Twelve Sons: Paintings from Auckland Castle was organized by Susan Grace Galassi, Senior Curator, The Frick Collection; Mark A. Roglán, Director of the Meadows Museum; Amanda Dotseth, Meadows/Mellon/Prado Fellow at the Meadows Museum; and Edward Payne, Senior Curator, Spanish Art, The Auckland Project, County Durham, England.

Principal funding for the New York exhibition was provided by an anonymous gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden and by The Christian Humann Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the David Berg Foundation, Margot and Jerry Bogert, Francis Finlay, Northern Trust, an anonymous gift in memory of Charles Ryskamp, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Ayesha Bulchandani, the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation, the Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, and the Spain Tourism Board, Consulate General of Spain in New York.

Zurbarán paintings and other works on display in the Long Dining Room at Auckland Castle; photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy: The Auckland Project.