Andrea Micheli, called Andrea Vicentino

Jacob Tells Rachel and Leah that he wishes to Leave Laban’s Service

oil on canvas
63.2 x 137.5 cm (24⅞ x 54⅛ in)

Provenance: Maffei Collection, Brescia, by 1760.

Literature: Giovanni Battista Carboni, Le pitture e sculture di Brescia che sono esposte al pubblico con un’appendice di alcune
private gallerie
(Brescia 1760), p.153;
Andrea Piai, ‘Altri incontri con Andrea Vicentino’, in Verona illustrate: la rivista del Museo di Castelvecchio, no. 28 (2015), pp. 106-108, illustrated p. 128, fig. 66.

In this work Andrea Vicentino has depicted a scene from the biblical story of Jacob. Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel when he first saw her watering sheep at a well. In order to win her hand in marriage he agreed to work as a shepherd for her father Laban for seven years. However, at the wedding Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s sister Leah, on the basis that it was tradition that the eldest daughter be married first. Therefore Jacob remained in Laban’s service for another seven years in order to marry Rachel as well. After twenty years, Jacob’s success as a shepherd led to resentment from Laban and his sons, and so, having been advised by God, Jacob decided to leave with his wives, children and flock, without informing his father-in-law. This is the moment depicted by Vicentino, as Jacob urges Rachel and Leah to leave with him. The chest and cups refer to the wealth that Rachel and Leah believe is their rightful inheritance, and the statue is a representation of the teraphim, or household gods, which Rachel stole from Laban without Jacob’s knowledge.

This subject was painted by Vicentino on at least two other occasions and comparison between our work and a version in Padua reflects his stylistic range.¹ In both paintings the biblical narrative is told through very similar groups of figures. However, in the Padua version the figures completely dominate the foreground, whereas in our painting the composition is divided into two parts, with equal prominence given to the both the narrative and to the depiction of a pastoral landscape. Our painting has been dated to the early 1600s, and the same compositional technique can be seen in another painting from this period, The Return of the Prodigal Son

Vicentino was born and trained in Vicenza, but by 1572 had moved to Venice. Here he became extremely successful, part of a group of artists known as the Sette Maniere, who came to dominate Venetian painting after the deaths of Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. Vicentino actually worked alongside Tintoretto in the decoration of the Doge’s palace, and became a specialist in large scale works. Commissions for monumental canvases came from patrons throughout Italy, and not just from Venice. An examination of his work reveals a painter who frequently finds innovative compositional solutions, something very much a feature of the present painting, with its combination of narrative and landscape elements.

¹ Andrea Piai, ‘Altri incontri con Andrea Vicentino’, in Verona illustrate: la rivista del Museo di Castelvecchio, no. 28 (2015), p. 107, fn. 2.
² Ibid., p. 107.