It would appear that at first Coypel was uncertain what aspect in the story of Abraham's Sacrifice to portray, for in the present pair, he paints two different moments described in Genesis 22. Lefrançois notes that this repetition of a story with variations of time and specific events is characteristic of Coypel's approach to a composition, and he relates it to Coypel’s lifelong involvement with the theatre.3 In the first of the two pictures here we see Abraham preparing for the sacrifice – an anguished but stoic father about to cover his son’s eyes with a blindfold. In the second painting, an angel appears to halt the sacrifice and Abraham and Isaac greet him with joy. Coypel uses the same settings and motifs for both scenes, including altars made of stones, the braziers and the knives. Despite the strong emotional content, the figure’s gestures are very restrained and their feelings are reflected primarily in their faces.
In the end, Coypel chose to portray the scene of the angel rescuing Isaac. Abraham and the Angel is almost identical to the painting in Marseilles and was clearly used as a model for the final version. We can even see a pentimento in the present work where Coypel changes the position of the angel's uplifted arm, moving it slightly to the left, a modification repeated in the finished composition.
1. Lefrançois confirmed the attribution in two letters to the present owner: the first, dated 8 November 2003, discusses Abraham and the Angel, and the second 28 November 2003, Abraham Preparing to Sacrifice Isaac. For his monograph on the artist see T. Lefrançois, Charles Coypel, Peintre du roi (1694-1752), Paris 1994.
2. See T. Lefrançois, op. cit., pp. 337-338, as location unknown but subsequently recovered and reproduced in Les peintres du roi 1648-1793, exhibition catalogue, Paris 2000, p. 265, no. R. 284.
3. See note 1.
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