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The Migration of Jacob
  • Date: 1663
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 133.5 x 180 cm
  • Inv: P80
  • Location: East Galleries III
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Further Reading
  • The subject of the painting is taken from the Old Testament and represents 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, with light is cast on the central figures, while others further back are cast in shadow. The dark, brooding clouds overhead add a sense of urgency to their journey.

    Adriaen van de Velde came from a family of painters, his father and brother worked in the marine genre while he specialised in landscapes. Van de Velde was a particularly gifted draftsman, equally skilled in depicting figures and animals, and was often called upon to paint figures into landscapes by other artists (see P225 and P194). In this picture, animals are as carefully rendered as the humans 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.

    Painted when van de Velde was only twenty-six years old, this exceptional painting is one of the few by the artist that represents a historical subject and that 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.