Jacob wrestling the Angel
(Francesco Fontebasso)


The subject depicted here by Francesco Fontebasso, Jacob wrestling with the Angel is an episode taken from Genesis 32:22-31. Depending on the interpretation of the religious texts, Jacob wrestling with the Angel can also be described as Jacob wrestling with God. In the background, on the left of the composition, one may see Jacob’s wives, sons and servants who fled with him from the lands of his uncle Laban. On the opposite side, Jacob’s livestock (his possessions) are resting alongside the Jabbok River. Separated from these elements in the foreground Fontebasso painted Jacob’s wrestling match with the Angel as the focal point of the composition. Indeed, according to the texts, Jacob, left alone, was hesitating to return back to settle things with his brother Esau when a man appeared.

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip.

72.5x56 cm
Oil on canvas

Private collection, Geneva, 2016

Historical Period
Rococo - 1720-1780
Price band
$50,000 - $100,000