Jan Brueghel the Younger Hendrick van Balen - The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau
Jan Brueghel the Younger
Hendrick van Balen
The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau
Oil on panel (parquetted). 59 x 83 cm.
This panel depicting the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau is a collaborative work between Hendrick van Balen and Jan Brueghel the Younger in which van Balen was responsible for the figures and Brueghel for the landscape.
The story, which is found in Genesis 33:2-5, is here depicted in a scene with many figures. Jacob had tricked his twin brother Esau out of his birth right and the blessing of their father Isaac. He returned to his brother after years away with a mighty herd, his wives Rachel and Lea, and all their children. Esau came out to meet him with an army, and Jacob feared that his brother may want to take revenge, but the two were reconciled.
Hendrick van Balen depicts the dramatic moment in which Jacob realises that Esau wishes to reconcile with him. Esau is shown in full armour dismounting from his horse to embrace his brother, who looks up towards him from a half kneeling pose. The two brothers' retinues are depicted in a frieze-like arrangement across the entire width of the image and become witnesses to the scene: On the right we see the army of Esau, on the left Jacob's wives, children, and herd of sheep. The figures are placed against a panoramic landscape with a castle on a rocky outcrop on the left and a thick forest on the right flanking a canyon that leads the viewer's eye towards a mountain range in the distance.
Hendrick van Balen and Jan Brueghel the Younger were two of the leading artists in Antwerp at the time. Van Balen had already collaborated with Jan Brueghel's father in a series of works in which he painted the figures and Brueghel the flowers and landscapes. Jan Brueghel the Elder passed away in 1625 and his son took over the running of his studio, continuing the fruitful collaborations with Hendrick van Balen, among them a series of works which the two artists painted between 1526 and 1532 featuring biblical or mythological scenes in landscapes. These include the “Meeting of David and Abigail” in the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the “Rape of Europa” in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Klaus Ertz dates the present work to around 1630, shortly before Hendrick van Balen's death.
Dr. Klaus Ertz, Lingen, 22.3.2014
North German private collection.