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Eliezer and Rebecca at the Well

Martin de Vos

(1532 - 1603) | 856.2.

Date : 1562 | Medium : Oil on canvas (transposed)

The Eliezer and Rebecca series occupies an important place in Renaissance painting in Rouen. This collection, painted for the church of Saint-Patrice, originally consisted of eight panels. They were seized during the Revolution and all trace was lost of two of them.

The commission was given to the young Flemish artist Marten de Vos, a former pupil of the Mannerist Frans Floris, on his return from a long stay in Italy, having worked for three years at Tintoretto’s studio in Venice. One of the themes in an important cycle featured on the wood panelling of a chapel is directly taken from the décor of Venetian churches.

This series must have been commissioned before the tragic sacking of the city, in 1562-1563, during the Wars of Religion. Those pictures that had not yet been delivered escaped destruction, thus making this the oldest extant series painted for a church in Rouen.

The cycle presents a clearly narrative portrayal of the story of Rebecca, based on Genesis chapter 17, in which Abraham instructs his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac. The image depicting the central scene of the meeting of Eliezer and Rebecca at the fountain bears the signature of Marten de Vos and the date 1562.

With the joyful élan of a Mannerist, Marten De Vos creates a profusion of characters and architectures. His figures’ gestures are eloquent, and he draws on a highly diverse palette of colours and attitudes. This richness of form and colour, a legacy of Venice, would breathe new life into Flemish painting, thus providing immediate stylistic inspiration for the following generation, which included Rubens in its numbers.