Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph

oil on canvas (175 × 210 cm) — 1656 Museum Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn biography

This work is linked to Genesis 48:14

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When Joseph hears that his father Jacob is dying, he takes his sons Manasseh and Ephraim to see him. He wants Jacob to bless his sons. The blind old man is willing to do so, but much to Joseph's surprise, he puts his right hand on Ephraim's head. Tradition had it that the eldest is to be blessed with the right hand, and Ephraim is the younger.

As Joseph objects, Jacob says about Ephraim "his seed shall become a multitude of nations". Jacob thus must have known that the tribe of Ephraim would become larger than the tribe of Manasseh.

Rembrandt chose not to depict the argument in this intimate painting. Note the presence of Asenath, mother of the children.

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