The Wallace Collection

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The Migration of Jacob
  • Adriaen van de Velde (1636 - 1672)
  • The Migration of Jacob
  • Netherlands
  • 1663
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 133.5 x 180 cm
  • Signature: 'A [van] velde. f / 1663'
  • P80
  • East Galleries III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • The subject of the painting may be identified as Jacob’s flight from his father-in-law Laban in Haran, with his wives, possessions and cattle (Genesis XXXI, 17-18). In this highly original composition, Jacob and his family form a procession that undulates across the landscape, some of it thrown into shadow while light is cast on the central figures. The dark, brooding clouds overhead add a sense of urgency to their departure.

    Adriaen van de Velde’s father and brother were both celebrated marine painters. However, Adriaen became a landscape painter. He was a particularly gifted draftsman, equally skilled in depicting figures as animals and often painted figures into the compositions of other artists (see P225 and P194). In this picture, animals are as carefully rendered as the human protagonists, ranging from familiar species of cattle, sheep and goats to exotic monkeys. Although no compositional study for this painting has been found, Van de Velde based his painting on at least two detailed studies from nature.

    The artist painted this picture in 1663, at the age of just twenty six. It is an exceptional painting in his oeuvre, because it is a historical subject and because it is painted on such an ambitious scale. The painter typically produced small cabinet paintings; see for example his Noonday Rest: the Parable of the Tares, 1663, also in the Wallace Collection (P199).

    The painting was first recorded in the superlative art collection of the comtesse de Verrue in Paris, in the late 1730’s, where it was displayed in her great gallery of European masterpieces. Our founder, the 4th Marquess of Hertford, acquired this painting from the collection of Cardinal Fesch (Napoleon’s ambassador to the Vatican) in Rome in 1845.