Sarah Returned to Abraham
(Gerbrand van den Eeckhout)


The subject matter of Gerbrand van den Eeckhout’s painting represents the Pharaoh returning Sarah to Abraham (Genesis 12:19-20). The famine in Canaan referred to in Genesis 12:10 drives Abraham and his brother Lot to move to Egypt with its stores of grain. ‘And there was a famine in the land: and Abraham went down into Egypt to sojourn there’ (12:10). There he presents his wife Sarah as his sister, because he fears that the reputedly immoral Egyptians would murder him on account of Sarah’s beauty. ‘And it came to pass, that, when Abraham was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes of the Pharaoh’s household also saw her and commended her before the Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into the Pharaoh’s house’ (12:14-15). Abraham received rich gifts, nonetheless God prevented the defiling of a married woman and sent plagues, whereupon the Pharaoh restituted Sarah to her husband. The ruler accused Abraham of deliberate deception, but eventually allows him and his family to be escorted out of the country. ‘And the Pharaoh called Abraham and said, ‘’What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?’’ And the Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had’ (12:18 and 12:20).

The scene takes place in a setting of classical architecture as part of the Pharaoh’s palace. In the foreground Abraham kneels reaching out with his arm to Sarah, who comes to him from the left with open arms. She is accompanied by an evidently high-ranking courtier in a turban decorated with pearls and a pearl earring.  From a podium elevated by three steps, flanked by a balustrade to the left and right, the Pharoah observes the scene. He wears a robe of gold brocade that reaches to the ground. Over this a likewise gold-coloured mantel with an ermine collar, together with a turban and crown, a gold chain and a scepter in his right hand. Behind the balustrade to either side of the podium are the courtiers and dignitaries of the Pharaoh, who either follow the scene in the foreground or discuss it in small groups. Behind the Pharaoh a portal with a round arch gives a view onto classical architecture reminiscent of Veronese as well as a fountain with the sculpture of a standing woman. An obelisk refers to Egypt and indicates the setting for the event. The scene in the foreground is flanked to the left by a man wearing a turban and to the right by a soldier wearing a cuirass who is armed with a shield, sword and war hammer.

Volker Manuth.

139 x 174 cm
oil on canvas

Etienne Le Roy (his sale), Brussels 24/4/1903, lot 28, as Abimelech returning Sarah.

Charles Becquet de Megille, Douai 29/6/1879- 5/6/1958 Saint Aubin de Baubigne and his wife Aliette merlin d’ Estreux de Beaugrenier, Lille 20/9/1887 -30/9/1949 Paris; by descent to their only daughter Ines de Becquet de Megille, Lille 28/2/1909- 10/9/1980 Saint Aubin de Baubigne who married Louis de CHabot, saint Aubin de Baubigne 22/10/1909 – 3/11/1992 Nantes.

Thence by descent to Marie- Therese who inherited the picture, Paris 9/4/1948- 18/4/2008 Cholet, and thence to her husband Jean Darblay, Lille 17/2/1936-.

Where is It?
Matthiesen Gallery
Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Religious: Old Testament
Netherlandish - Dutch