oil canvas depicting man with walking stick and wearing hooded shabby outerwear

Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
Simeon, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas
79 1/16 x 40 3/4 in. (200.8 x 103.5 cm)
Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
© The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.

May I never come into their council;
may I not be joined to their company —
for in their anger they killed men,
and at their whim they hamstrung oxen.

Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob,
and scatter them in Israel.

“The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:5–7)

In this verse, Simeon and his brother Levi are condemned by their father for murdering the men of Shalem to avenge the rape of their sister Dinah by Shechem, as described in Genesis 34. Jacob prophesies that their tribes will be divided and scattered throughout Israel. Zurbarán depicts Simeon with a sword, which alludes to the murders. He is attired in animal skins and a blood-red sash, making him appear almost savage. With his face in three-quarter view, curled right hand holding a stick, and left hand behind his back, Simeon strikes a pose that appears to have been taken from a sixteenth-century print of King Darius by an unknown artist, published by Gerard de Jode.

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