Erich Lessing

Jacob the deceiver. Taking advantage of his father’s blindness, Jacob reaches forward to receive the blessing that Isaac believes he is bestowing upon his firstborn, Esau (Genesis 27:21–29). In this 17th-century oil painting by Jusepe Ribera (nicknamed “lo Spagnoletto”), Rebekah, who encouraged her son Jacob in his deceit, hovers encouragingly—almost triumphantly—over the scene, while in the background on the left, Esau returns from the hunt just in time to realize that he has once again been duped by his brother. Both in this episode and the earlier agreement between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:29–32), Jacob has made legitimate legal contracts, but he stands on very shaky moral ground.