Scala/Art Resource, NY

Heavy with sleep, Jacob rests his head on a stone while the heavens open above him in his dream. Emerging from the billowing clouds of Raphael’s painting, in the Vatican Palace, angels climb a stairway that extends from earth to heaven, with God at the top. At the edges of the scene lies the countryside that God bequeaths to Jacob: “The ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring. Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south” (Genesis 28:13–14).