Esau Selling His Birthright to Jacob

Rembrandt, Esau Selling His Birthright to Jacob, 1640-1641, ink drawing, British Museum, London.

Most of Rembrandt’s surviving drawings are from his sketchbooks and not preparatory studies for his paintings. We know from his 1656 bankruptcy that they auctioned off twenty-four books of his drawings and two parcels of sketches. Biblical scenes were a common theme in his daily drawings. Like this drawing of Esau and Jacob Rembrandt often used costume to locate his biblical figures in a fictional realm without needing to add any reference in the background of the picture. Here Esau has a turban, a long bow, and a fringed skirt.

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