oil painting of man with crown, scepter, and ornate robe, with lion at feet

Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
Judah, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas
79 1/4 x 40 3/4 in. (201.3 x 103.5 cm)
Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
© The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.

Judah is a lion’s whelp;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He crouches down, he stretches out like a lion,
like a lioness — who dares rouse him up?

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and the obedience of the peoples is his.

Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he washes his garments in wine
and his robe in the blood of grapes;

his eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.

“The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:8–12)

Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah, is presented as a king, his frontal stance, regal attire, and crown attesting to his power. Jacob prophesizes future success for Judah, proclaiming that his “father’s sons shall bow down” before him and that “the scepter shall not depart” from him. In the New Testament (Matthew 1:6), Judah is shown to be the ancestor of kings David and Solomon, and Jacob’s blessing may refer to this destiny. Zurbarán follows Jacob’s words closely, giving Judah a scepter and placing the head of a lion along the left edge of the painting. Jacques de Gheyn II’s print of Judah, which includes a lion, scepter, and crown — from his series The Twelve Sons of Jacob after designs by Karel van Mander I — also informs Zurbarán’s imagery. This set of engravings, found in Zurbarán’s studio after his death, served as the artist’s primary source for compositional ideas, poses, and costume elements for his painting cycle.

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