Jacob

oil painting depicting old man leaning over cane with long white beard

Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
Jacob, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas
79 1/8 x 40 5/16 in. (201 x 102.4 cm)
Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
© The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

Gather around, that I may tell you what will 
happen to you in days to come.

Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob; 
listen to Israel your father.

"The Blessings of Jacob" (Genesis 49:1–2)

The biblical text that accompanies the image of the patriarch, Jacob, sets off the chain of blessings that the father bestows on his twelve sons. Zurbarán responded to the resonating words “Gather around, that I may tell you what will happen to you in days to come” by creating an image for each of the founders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, most in accordance with the destiny Jacob predicted for them. Jacob’s status is signified by his elaborate turban in gold brocade and the long scarf that descends below his flowing white beard. His stooped posture and hands resting on the cane denote his great age, as if he were pulled down to the earth by gravity. With eyes veiled in shadow and partially closed, Jacob, later given the name Israel by God (Genesis 32:28), looks out as if to include the viewer in the gathering in which the blessings are bestowed.