Hermitage, Leningrad

High drama marks the above painting, completed in 1635—a time when Rembrandt, not yet 30 years old, was the leading portrait artist in Holland. In this classic baroque composition, our eye is drawn to the brightly lit diagonal of Isaac’s body. From there we move upwards to Abraham’s face and follow his startled glance towards the suddenly arrived angel. Like a bolt the angel zooms in, emphasizing God’s intervention. The knife suspended in mid-air, captured as if by a high-speed camera, boldly contributes to the painting’s feeling of tension and action.