|Title||Isaac Blessing Jacob|
|Alternative Title||Abraham and Ishmael; Abraham Blessing Hagar and Ishmael|
|Collection||Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery|
|Artist|| Circle of Guarino, Francesco (Italian painter, 1611-1654)
Previously attributed to Fracanzano, Francesco (Italian painter, 1612-1656)
Previously attributed to Ribera, Jusepe de (Spanish painter and printmaker, baptized in 1591, died 1652, active in Italy)
|Date Earliest||possibly about 1640|
|Date Latest||possibly about 1660|
|Description||The painting depicts the well-known incident in Genesis 27, when Jacob, at the instigation of his mother, Rebecca, acquires the blessing intended for Esau. On the right is Isaac, on his death-bed, with his right hand on the young boy's head. Behind Jacob, on the left, is his mother, Rebecca. The moment depicted is when Isaac says: ‘Come close that I may touch you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.' Esau was a notoriously hairy man, so that Rebecca dressed Jacob in kid's skins to make him feel likewise. So Isaac concludes: ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau', and gives the blessing intended for Esau to Jacob instead.|
|Current Accession Number||BLKMG:P613|
|Subject||religion (Isaac blessing Jacob)|
|Measurements||94 x 117.5 cm (estimate)|
|Material||oil on canvas|
|Acquisition Details||Given by Mrs G. Newman 1959.|
|Provenance||Anonymous sale, Christie's, 12 December 1958, lot 124, as Abraham blessing Hagar and Ishmael by Ribera, bought by ‘Homer', £70.|
Noted in the conservation records, inscriptions on back: chalk: 'DEC 12-58 124'; stencilled: '582 LT'. The chalk date and lot number refer to the Christie's sale noted in the provenance
The original attribution to Ribera, which dates back to at least 1958, is not safe; the style of the painting does not compare well to his robust form of Caravaggisti realism. The figures are more idealised, and show an Italianate influence that suggests this is by a second or third generation Caravaggisti working in Naples.
The attribution noted on the accession sheet, i.e. 'Francanzano?' refers to a family of 17th century Neapolitan painters, the Fracanzanos. The two main candidates would be Francesco Fracanzano (1612 - about 1656) or his brother Cesare (1605-1653), who were both students of Ribera. More appropriate is the attribution to Cesare, whose work has a mannered, graceful quality more in tune with this painting. Francesco's is more brutally real and Caravaggesque in comparison. It is hard to find any equivalent images in their oeuvre, and there are many Caravaggisti painters working in this style in Naples in the 17th century. However, one possibility should be given serious consideration: Francesco Guarino, (1611-1654). His idealised version of Caravaggio's style is in keeping with this image; the face of Jacob, with its smooth skin, heavy eye-lids, and dark shadows, recall the techniques passed to Guarino by Massimo Stanzione. For an example, see his well-known St Agatha in Naples, Museo e Gallerie di Capodimonte. Equally convincing is the existence of this subject in his oeuvre, painted as a pair with Esau selling his Birthright in 1640-42, his Blessing of Isaac in the Gallery Schönborn, Pommersfelden, showing a remarkably similar composition and arrangement of elements. Certainly there is enough evidence to suggest that ‘circle of' Guarino may be safe.
A conservation report notes that the canvas appears to have been cut down, and suggests that the composition was originally full-length. If so, based on the Guarino attribution, the missing elements would probably have been a still-life at the foot of the painting, consisting of food and pots beside Isaac's bed.
Originally known at Backburn Museum & Art Gallery as ‘Abraham and Ishmael' and previously as ‘Abraham blessing Hagar and Ishmael'.
Mrs G Newman lived at Oakdene, 10 Buncer Lane, Blackburn.
|Rights Owner||© Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery|