Image Resources | Currently on View in William L. and Jane H. Fortune Gallery (H214)

Rebecca and Eliezer at the Well

Carlo Maratti (Italian, 1625-1713)

This painting depicts the Old Testament story of Eliezer, sent by Abraham to find a wife for his son, Isaac. He meets the future bride, Rebecca, at a well outside a distant village and rewards her kindness in giving him water with a gift of jewels.

Maratti was the most successful and influential painter in Rome during the second half of the 17th century. He was trained in the studio of Andrea Sacchi, whose works epitomize the classicizing tendency in late baroque painting. Like Sacchi, Maratti adhered to the classical principle of composing pictorial narratives with as few figures as possible, rendering them with grandeur and clarity.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

In this painting based on an Old Testament episode, Abraham’s servant Eliezer has traveled to a distant village to find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Eliezer chooses Rebecca from among the village women when she displays great kindness by giving water to his camels, just as Abraham had predicted. To secure her betrothal, Eliezer offers Rebecca precious jewels, which she accepts. Though most versions of this subject depict Eliezer among a multitude of women as if he were a beauty pageant judge, Maratti’s design reduces the story to its essential components and employs half-length figures to emphasize the dramatic facial expressions.

This subject was understood in Maratti’s era as a prefiguration of the Virgin’s selection as the spouse of God. The pearl Rebecca takes from Eliezer suggests praise for the Virgin as the Pearl of Great Price. The vase Rebecca carries is another Marian symbol, recalling Mary’s role as the Vessel of Grace. In Italian art, vases sometimes also served as metaphors for the swelling female form. In this painting, where both Rebecca and another woman hold vases, the viewer is invited to compare their physical beauty as well as their virtue, thereby participating in Eliezer’s choice.

Object Information

Carlo Maratti (Italian, 1625-1713)
creation date
about 1655-57
oil on canvas
47 x 62 in.
accession number
credit line
Alicia Ballard Fine Arts Purchase Fund
Public Domain
European Painting and Sculpture Before 1800

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