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Jacob’s Dream


Jacob’s Dream

Author: Workshop of Simão Álvares (?)

Date: 17th century, middle

Material: Oil on chestnut

Dimensions (cm): H 89,5 x W 105

Provenance: Guimarães, Convento de Santa Clara

Inventory No.: MAS P 17


This painting depicts the episode described in the Old Testament (as the legend that is present indicates: GENES. C. 28), where God comes to Jacob to confirm that He will be with him and will protect him as well as his offspring.

In this work, God appears in the form of light at the top of the ladder that unites heaven and earth and that is climbed by angels. Jacob is sleeping on the lower right side of the composition. In the background, one can see a figure wearing the same clothes, which may represent his journey, before resting and communicating with God through the dream.

This panel is part of a wider group (MAS P 17 to MAS P 29 and MAS P 60) that is included in the collections of the Museum. They are oil-on-wood paintings that were discovered by the first director of the Museu de Alberto Sampaio, Alfredo Guimarães, behind a false wall of the former Casa do Cabido of the Colegiada de Santa Maria da Oliveira, that were then included in the heritage fund of the Museum (1947).

Recent researches permit us to conclude that this group of paintings belonged to the extinct Convento de Santa Clara, decorating the sacristy.

The authorship of this set of panels is currently attributed to an unknown local master. One of the hypotheses advanced considers that these works may have resulted from the Guimarães workshop of Simão Álvares, but, considering the iconographic and style characteristics, one concludes that at least two painters were involved, one of them being more agile in the drawing and more erudite, since some of the panels reveal a technical mastery and a superior quality.

It was also possible to conclude that the main iconographical source that was used were the Nordic mannerist engravings by the xylographer Jost Amman (1539 – 1591) (edited in Frankfurt in 1580). The Old Testament themes are very unusual in 17th-century Portuguese art, the painters and the people commissioning them preferring themes such as those related to Christ’s, the saints’ or the Virgin’s lives, and, thus the use of foreign illustrations as source of inspiration for the depiction of other biblical themes.