Jacob Confronting Laban

Jan Steen (Dutch, c.1626-1679)
c. 1667-68
Oil on panel 
18-3/4 x 23-1/4 in. (47.6 x 59.1 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
Not on View

The story of Jacob and Laban is told in the Book of Genesis and recounts an unusual love story. The youthful Jacob had contracted to work for Laban for seven years in return for the hand of his youngest daughter Rachel. On their wedding night, Laban switched Jacob’s betrothed for his eldest daughter Leah. Through gesture, expression and a sophisticated mise-en-scene, Steen portrays the dramatic moment of surprise when Jacob discovers the Laban has deceived him. The younger woman in the bed is Leah whom Jacob married the night before. Her handmaid Zilpah kneels before her proffering a bowl of water. To the left stands Rachel, while Laban is obliged to explain the deceit to a beseeching and agitated Jacob. Celebrants from the wedding night’s festivities give context and a bit of levity to the scene. The rich, theatrical setting and lush appointments of the bedroom set the scene in the historical past, a device that Steen may have adopted from contemporary Dutch theatre.


(sale, London, Phillips, 7 June 1825, lot 124a).
Hugh A. J. Munro, London and Novar (Scotland), by 1842 – still in 1865.
[Asscher-Welcker-Duits, London, 1925].
[Gallery Gebr. Douwes, stock no. 3560, Amsterdam, 1926/1927].
[Kunsthaus Malmedé, Cologne and Bonn, 1949].
E. Meyer-Hohenberg, Hamburg, sold 20 October 1952 to;
[Julius Böhler, Munich, sold 1958 to];
H. A. Wetzlar, Amsterdam (sale, Rheims & Lebel, Paris, 3 December 1959, lot 25, ill., Ffr. 1,000,000).
[Alfred Brod, London, 1963].
[Dr. William Katz, London, sold 19 November 1968 for £4750 to];
[Schaeffer Galleries, Inc., New York, stock no. 2567, sold 15 May 1969 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation (sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 12 December 1980, lot 86, bought in).

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