Zebulun

oil painting of man holding large stick or boe

Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
Zebulun, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas
78 1/2 x 40 1/2 in. (199.4 x 102.9 cm)
Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
© The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

Zebulun shall settle at the shore of the sea;
he shall be a haven for ships,
and his border shall be at Sidon.

“The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:13)

Zebulun, the sixth son of Leah and the tenth son of Jacob, is shown near water, holding an anchor. The imagery is closely connected to the blessing. Later in the biblical narrative, when Jacob’s sons and their tribes are granted territory in the kingdom of Israel, Zebulun is given land just east of the sea. Jacob’s blessing could, therefore, allude to Zebulun’s future tribal allotment. Zurbarán borrowed aspects of the composition — including the facial type, anchor, and viewpoint — from Jacques de Gheyn II’s Zebulun in his print series The Twelve Sons of Jacob, while depicting Zebulun as a younger man. Zurbarán originally painted him as a gaunter figure, as evidenced by technical imaging. The striped fabric of Zebulun’s jaunty cropped pants has been connected with textiles from the Americas.