The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau

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The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau about 1624


This lively oil sketch illustrates the Old Testament story of Jacob making peace with his twin brother Esau, many years after he had robbed Esau of his birthright. It is the model (‘modello’) or final design from a series of preparatory studies made for a large painting of the subject (in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich). Such works were often shown to the patron of a commissioned painting for approval. In Rubens’s phenomenally busy studio, oil sketches helped guide assistants as they worked up a painting following the master’s design. A work like this was highly prized because it was entirely by Rubens himself.

Glossary Open


When an individual or organisation employs an artist to execute a particular project, the process and the resulting work are termed a ‘commission’.


The support given to artists by an individual or organisation, usually through buying or funding their work.

Commission, Patronage


  • Acc. No. NG 2397
  • Medium Oil on panel
  • Size 42.50 x 40.30 cm (56 x 52 x 6.5 cm, framed)
  • Credit Scottish National Gallery. Edinburgh. Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Gallery of Scotland, 1980.