About this artwork

This lively oil sketch illustrates the Old Testament story of Jacob making peace with his twin brother Esau, many years after he had robbed Esau of his birthright. It is the model (‘modello’) or final design from a series of preparatory studies made for a large painting of the subject (in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich). Such works were often shown to the patron of a commissioned painting for approval. In Rubens’s phenomenally busy studio, oil sketches helped guide assistants as they worked up a painting following the master’s design. A work like this was highly prized because it was entirely by Rubens himself.

  • title: The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau
  • accession number: NG 2397
  • artist: Sir Peter Paul RubensFlemish (1577 - 1640)
  • depicted: Jacob
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Families Baroque Religious
  • date created: About 1625 - 1628
  • measurements: 42.50 x 40.30 cm (framed: 55.40 x 52.20 x 6.50 cm)
  • credit line: Scottish National Gallery. Edinburgh. Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Gallery of Scotland, 1980.
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Sir Peter Paul Rubens

Sir Peter Paul Rubens

Rubens, an outstanding artist, scholar and diplomat, enjoyed a long, prolific and internationally successful career. He painted themes from the Bible and classical mythology, portraits, landscapes and allegorical subjects. After spending eight years in Italy, he returned to Antwerp in 1608, where he set up a flourishing workshop. He generally painted on a large scale, and excelled in describing dramatic episodes through ample figures in dynamic poses, sumptuous colour and brilliant lighting. Rubens employed many assistants to meet the demand for his work, which came from wealthy patrons at home and abroad, including the kings of Spain, France and Britain.