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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn: Balaam and the Ass

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

Balaam and the Ass

oil on panel (63 × 47 cm) — 1626 Museum Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn biography

This work is linked to Numbers 22:27

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Tags: Balaam

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One of the earliest works by the young Rembrandt, who in 1626 had just set up shop for himself. This work is probably derivative of a painting by his master Pieter Lastman, be it in a truly new composition.

Balaam was a heathen prophet summoned by the Moabitean King Balak to curse Israel. On his way to Balak his she-ass refuses to walk three times because an angel blocks the road. Balaam does not see the angel and strikes the she-ass. After a third thrashing the god of the Hebrews speaks through the she-ass: What have I done to you? At which Balaam repents.

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