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Jusepe de Ribera, Jacob with the Flock of Laban

Key facts
Full title Jacob with the Flock of Laban
Artist Jusepe de Ribera
Artist dates 1591 - 1652
Date made probably 1638
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 132 × 118 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Lord Colborne Bequest, 1854
Inventory number NG244
Location Room 32
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Jacob with the Flock of Laban
Jusepe de Ribera

Jacob sits next to a stream, holding his shepherd’s staff, surrounded by his flock. Resting beneath a tree, he looks up towards heaven as if seeking guidance or strength: according to the Old Testament story, Jacob agreed to tend Laban’s flock for seven years so that he could marry his daughter Rachel. Instead of paying wages, Laban promised Jacob he could keep any speckled lambs that were born. Jacob peeled the bark off wooden branches and placed them in the stream (two are floating lower left). Any sheep that drank from this water would conceive speckled lambs, which Jacob was later able to claim as his own.

A copy after this painting in the Museo Cerralbo, Madrid, reveals that the National Gallery painting was substantially cut down on the left-hand side: the canvas was originally more rectangular in format and included a speckled sheep in the left foreground.

Ribera signed the painting lower right, stating his Spanish nationality, his training at the Academy in Rome and the date 1638.

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