Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669)
Date1655; 17th century impression
DimensionsFrame : 22 x 20 3/4 in. (55.88 x 52.71 cm)
Plate : 6 1/8 x 5 1/8 in. (15.56 x 13.02 cm)
Credit LineThe Sarah and Grace Collection
LabelThe Book of Genesis says that God tested Abraham by commanding him to kill his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. As Abraham was preparing to strike the fatal blow, God sent an angel to stop him and provided a ram to be sacrificed instead. This story about maintaining one’s faith in God even in the most trying circumstances resonated strongly with audiences in both Northern and Southern Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries and was portrayed numerous times in the art of that period. Rembrandt’s interest in the story, which he portrayed three times during his career, must have been influenced by the premature deaths of three of his children and his beloved wife Saskia. The artist’s sensitivity to Abraham’s love for his son and anguish over the terrible loss he faces is clearly evident in the patriarch’s grief-stricken face and in the tender way that he covers Isaac’s eyes to spare him the fright of seeing the sacrificial blade.