Jacob Asking for Laban
late 17th century
78 cm x 84 cm (30 11/16 in. x 33 1/16 in.)
(Genoa, Italy, 1641 - 1710, Genoa, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Fleeing for his life, Jacob seeks refuge with his uncle, Laban, living in “the land of the people of the east.” While Jacob discusses Laban’s whereabouts with shepherds, all the animals in the foreground gaze intently at the viewer. They take center stage, not the humans. Francesco Castiglione follows after his father, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, who showcased animals within biblical narratives. In fact, the goat and cattle in the foreground are likely copied from one of his father’s paintings.
The work also represents the Genoese fondness for animals in artwork, a taste stimulated by Northern European genre painting and depictions of keenly observed animals. During the early seventeenth century, Dutch and Flemish artists, along with others throughout Europe, moved to Genoa to meet its large demand for art, especially decoration of palaces owned by the city’s wealthy families.