The Sacrifice of Abraham

Johann Anton Ramboux (1790 1866)

ca. 1820
Oil on canvas, mounted on wood
Height: 24 cm
Width: 31 cm
Inventory Number
purchased in 1985

Johann Anton Ramboux moved to Rome in 1816 and made the acquaintance of artists in the Brotherhood of St. Luke such as Peter von Cornelius and Friedrich Overbeck. The studies of old masters were to form the basis of a pictorial language in alignment with the Nazarenes’ aim of a Romantic-Christian renewal in art. The small oil painting “The Sacrifice of Abraham” shows how defining his involvement with the art of the Late Middle Ages was for his work. The traditional, transparently applied, glowing colors and the contrast-rich local coloration are reminiscent of medieval paintings. The conception of the figures and landscape, as well as the simultaneous depiction of various moments of the Biblical story also point to the influence of the old masters. The central scene shows the moment when Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his only son to him. Traditional depictions usually center on the dramatic moment in which the sacrifice is prevented by an angel at the last minute. By contrast, Ramboux shows Abraham’s lonely desperation, his wavering between his deep love for his son and his fear of God. In true Romantic style the painter shows the patriarch as a man in his moment of doubt during a severe test, and offers the viewer an opportunity to empathize and identify with him.


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