All Objects

  • 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.

  • oil painting depicting man holding column like structure

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Reuben, ca. 1640–45
    Oil on canvas
    78 9/16 x 40 9/16 in. (199.5 x 103 cm)
    Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
    © The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

    Reuben, you are my firstborn,
    my might and the first fruits of my vigor,
    excelling in rank and excelling in power.

    Unstable as water, you shall no longer excel
    because you went up onto your father’s bed;
    then you defiled it — you went up onto my couch!

    “The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:3–4)

    Reuben is Jacob’s eldest son and his first child with Leah. The blessing refers to this firstborn status but also condemns Reuben for betraying his father in an earlier incident, when, as related in Genesis 35, Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah. Zurbarán’s depiction of Reuben reflects these conflicting circumstances. The column, a traditional symbol of fortitude, on which Reuben rests his hand, as well as his frontal stance, suggests his strength and rank in the family. His downcast eyes, however, allude to his reprehensible actions, which would deprive him and his tribe of the preeminent position they would have attained. The primary visual source for Reuben has been identified as the standing figure of Pontius Pilate dressed in a turban and robe from Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut The Flagellation from the Small Passion series, a source perhaps for the column as well.

  • 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.

  • oil canvas depicting man in ornate cape and holding out gold chain

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Levi, ca. 1640–45
    Oil on canvas
    79 x 40 3/4 in. (200.7 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)

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • oil painting depicting man in tunic, with sack on his back and a donkey

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Issachar, 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

    Issachar is a strong donkey,
    lying down between the sheepfolds;

    he saw that a resting place was good,
    and that the land was pleasant;
    so he bowed his shoulder to the burden,
    and became a slave at forced labor.

    “The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:14–15)

    The prophecy for Issachar — the ninth son of Jacob and Leah’s fifth — is relatively straightforward. Described as a “strong donkey,” he is destined for a life of labor. Zurbarán hews close to the biblical text, depicting Issachar in a crude brown robe that exposes his muscular legs. He is shown striding along the bank of a stream, his possessions tied up in a red knapsack on his back. The donkey appears as an awkwardly cropped head cutting in on the left side of the canvas, a detail taken from Jacques de Gheyn II’s print Issachar from the series The Twelve Sons of Jacob. The warm red of the knapsack and the slightly stooped posture of the figure connect this toiler of the land with Zurbarán’s depiction of Jacob. The simplicity of Issachar’s attire sets him off from his siblings, most of whom are arrayed in elaborate costumes.

  • oil painting of man with ornate robes and staff with snake on it

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Dan, ca. 1640–45
    Oil on canvas
    79 1/8 x 40 3/4 in. (201 x 103.5 cm)
    Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
    © The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

    Dan shall judge his people
    as one of the tribes of Israel.

    Dan shall be a snake by the roadside,
    a viper along the path,
    that bites the horse’s heels
    so that its rider falls backward.

    I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

    “The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:16–18)

    Dan’s name, which is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “to judge or vindicate,” is directly connected with the role Jacob assigns him in his blessing. The first son of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid, and Jacob, Dan is depicted in an ornate golden robe that indicates his stature. With one hand, he appears to gesture to someone outside the frame, while with the other, he holds a snake-entwined rod resembling the staff of Asclepius, an ancient symbol associated with medicine and healing. Here, the attribute has been interpreted as recalling Jacob’s description of Dan as a judge of his people and a “viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels,” thus defeating his more powerful enemies. It has also been seen as a reference to the Old Testament passage in which Moses fashions a bronze serpent to protect the Israelites from a plague of poisonous snakes. The pose and gesture of Dan are lifted almost directly from a figure in Jonadab Counseling Amnon, a print by Philips Galle after Maarten van Heemskerck.

  • oil painting depicting man with chest armor and club-like instrument

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Gad, ca. 1640–45
    Oil on canvas
    78 1/2 x 40 9/16 in. (199.4 x 103 cm)
    Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
    © The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

    Gad shall be raided by raiders,
    but he shall raid at their heels.

    “The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:19)

    Born to Jacob and Leah’s handmaid Zilpah (after Leah could no longer bear children), Gad receives a brief blessing of ambiguous meaning. Holding a club and wearing a breastplate, and with a sword attached at his waist, Gad is depicted as a soldier. His turban, tunic, and sash lend his costume a Moorish aspect. Zurbarán based this image on the biblical interpretation of Gad and his tribe as adept in battle. The words in Jacob’s blessing may refer to this trait. Gad has also been seen as a magistrate, based on Moses’s description of him in Deuteronomy 33:21, as executing “the justice of the Lord, and his ordinances for Israel.”

  • oil painting depicting man holding basket of bread, with large staff

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Asher, ca. 1640–45
    Oil on canvas
    79 1/4 x 40 15/16 in. (201.3 x 104 cm)
    Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
    © The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

    Asher’s food shall be rich,
    and he shall provide royal delicacies.

    “The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:20)

    Attired in the finest regalia, the prosperous farmer Asher was the son of Jacob and Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid. In Zurbarán’s painting, the overflowing basket of bread in Asher’s hands refers to the “royal delicacies” in the blessing and showcases the artist’s extraordinary skill in the genre of still life. Asher’s association with bread in biblical literature led the sixth-century Spanish theologian Isidore of Seville to interpret him as a prefiguration of Christ, who in the Eucharist becomes bread for the faithful. Asher’s staff bisects the canvas, introducing a dynamic element into an otherwise static composition. Recent technical analysis revealed that the landscape in Asher — as well as that in Issachar, both of which are of particularly high quality — was most likely painted by Zurbarán himself as a model for his assistants to follow in the other works in the series.

  • oil painting of man with tunic and shovel over shoulder

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Naphtali, ca. 1640–45
    Oil on canvas
    78 1/2 x 40 5/8 in. (199.4 x 103.2 cm)
    Auckland Castle, County Durham, UK, courtesy Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust
    © The Auckland Project/Zurbarán Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

    Naphtali is a doe let loose
    that bears lovely fawns.

    “The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:21)

    Like Issachar, this statuesque figure is depicted in the humble clothing of a laborer. Barefoot, he wears a voluminous brown robe and red undergarment, with a red cap over his abundant dark hair. The son of Jacob and Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid, Naphtali is equated in Jacob’s blessing with “a doe let loose.” Zurbarán, however, chose to ignore this reference, depicting him instead as a farm worker rooted to the earth, with a muscular physique and a spade to tote over his shoulder. For Naphtali’s pose, costume, and attribute, Zurbarán turned directly to the figure of Christ in Albrecht Dürer’s Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene from his Small Passion series of woodcuts. The water in the background of Zurbarán’s painting may relate to the words of the prophet Isaiah in the Gospel of Matthew: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15).

  • oil painting of man in ornate clothing, holding a thin staff in one hand, and paper in other

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Joseph, 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 by Robert LaPrelle

    Joseph is a fruitful bough,
    a fruitful bough by a spring;
    his branches run over the wall.

    The archers fiercely attacked him;
    they shot at him and pressed him hard.

    Yet his bow remained taut,
    and his arms were made agile
    by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,
    by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,

    by the God of your father, who will help you,
    by the Almighty who will bless you
    with blessings of heaven above,
    blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

    The blessings of your father
    are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains,
    the bounties of the everlasting hills;
    may they be on the head of Joseph,
    on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.

    “The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:22–26)

  • oil painting of young man holding staff at hip and a leash attached to a dog

    Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664)
    Benjamin, ca. 1640–45
    Oil on canvas
    78 3/8 x 40 1/2 in. (199.2 x 103 cm)
    The Grimsthorpe & Drummond Castle Trust
    © Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Trust; photo Robert LaPrelle

    Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
    in the morning devouring the prey,
    and at evening dividing the spoil.

    “The Blessings of Jacob” (Genesis 49:27)

    Benjamin was the twelfth and youngest son of Jacob and the second son of Rachel, who died shortly after giving birth to him. Along with Joseph, Benjamin was especially loved by his father. In Zurbarán’s painting, Benjamin stands out for his active twisting pose, similar to Simeon’s, and informal rustic attire. His landscape is embellished with architectural ruins. The shoulder bag he carries alludes to an episode that took place in Egypt, as related in Genesis 44, when Joseph instructed his steward to slip a silver cup in Benjamin’s sack of grain and then accused him of stealing it. The ruse was a means of testing the brothers’ loyalty to their youngest sibling. The description of Benjamin in the blessing as “a ravenous wolf” has been interpreted as referring to his tribe’s reputation for ferocity in battle. The wolf is taken almost directly from Jacques de Gheyn II’s print of Benjamin, from the series The Twelve Sons of Jacob.
     

    Zurbarán’s Benjamin and Grimsthorpe Castle