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The Unprecedented Bible Portraits of Francisco de Zurbarán

In his paintings of Jacob and his twelve sons, the 17th-century Spanish master humanizes his subjects, rendering them approachable and individual rather than remote and ethereal.

March 15, 2018 | Menachem Wecker
About the author: Menachem Wecker, a freelance journalist based in Washington DC, covers art, culture, religion, and education for a variety of publications.

From Dan by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1640–45. Frick Collection/Auckland Castle Trust/Zurbarán Trust.

With the sons of Jacob cowering before him, the fearsome viceroy of Egypt finally reveals himself as none other than their brother Joseph, whom they had long ago conspired against and sold into slavery. He thereby takes the final step toward fulfilling his youthful dream of seeing his family bow down to him—while simultaneously orchestrating a joyous family reunion. The story is told with incomparable artistry in chapters 42-44 of Genesis.

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