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The Oath of Abraham’s Servant

The Oath of Abraham’s Servant

c. 1650-1659

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione

(Italian, 1609-1664)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 71.2 x 94 x 9 cm (28 1/16 x 37 x 3 9/16 in.); Unframed: 56 x 78.4 cm (22 1/16 x 30 7/8 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1969.1

Description

This work has long been called Journey of a Patriarch in the belief that the artist intended no specific subject. Recent research by graduate student Tamara Durn of Case Western Reserve University suggests that the painting instead depicts a moment in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Abraham secures a pledge from his servant to find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. The servant wears a zamt, a goatskin cap common in North Africa in the 1600s, here dyed an unusual shade of blue, a color associated with faith and trust, symbolizing his sacred oath.

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