Paintings In The Bible: Abraham And Isaac

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A painting is a scene, frozen in time. The Bible is full of memorable scenes, with thousands of years of art to capture the intensity of the stories. My journey to find one of these thought-provoking paintings began at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art almost six years ago. I stood in a grand room with tens of other paintings and high, echoing ceilings. In front of me was a massive, Renaissance-era piece. Without looking at the title or artist’s statement, I knew it was of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. It had the iconic look of one of the most infamous stories from the Bible. So, with that memorable moment and painting in mind, I went to ARTstor through the Hale Library. ‘Abraham and Isaac’ were the key words I used but there were too many paintings. …show more content…
The Sacrifice of Isaac is a prime example. The use of color is peculiar, considering how dark the story is. Color is associated with happiness, light, and good things. Abraham is about to sacrifice his son in the name of God. Something not so ‘good’ and he’s wearing bright red robes. The use of shadow in paintings to represent good vs. bad, and similar dichotomies, is another common technique that Rubens is going against. Here, both Abraham and Isaac are cast in light. Glowing, despite the tragedy about to occur (which could be indicative of the ‘pureness’ of the ‘sin’ Abraham is about to commit; he is going to murder his son but God told him to so that makes it all right. So Abraham is not in shadow because he is ‘still in the light of God’). On the same token, there is ‘darkness’ in this painting. There looks to be a storm brewing in the sky, adding an ominous feeling. The thicket is dry and dying, trees are barren. It helps to offset the vibrancy of the …show more content…
Knowing that, I still believe The Sacrifice of Isaac is somewhat unlike the original scripture. I feel like the scene should be darker- grittier. To add to the severity and finality of what Abraham is about to do. Peter Paul Rubens chose to make a brighter scene. The subject matter is so dark yet he painted it in the light. But he also added the angel, which provided contrast to the color in the painting. The passage in the Bible has less of an air of urgency, as with Genesis 22.10. ‘But the angel of the Lord called to him from Heaven…’ (Gen 22.11) The angel of the Lord physically restraining Abraham’s arm is a powerful image. In this painting, instead of calling out from heaven, God sent an angel to stop the sacrifice of Isaac. Like Abraham was a second away from using the knife and the angel stopped him just in time. Isaac was literally a stroke away from death. The way Abraham’s hand in the painting is hovering over Isaac’s head, fingers spread like he’d had a grip on Isaac’s hair, pulling his head back to slit his throat, only to let go in surprise when an angel grabbed his other arm, the one reeling back with the knife. And Isaac, turning his head away, back pressed against the altar. A fearful expression on his face (and, I assume, a lifetime of trauma he is beginning to suppress). It makes for a more

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