Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Sacrifice of Isaac, 1602–3
Oil on canvas, 41 x 53 1/8 in.
(104 x 135 cm)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Following God’s command, Abraham prepares to sacrifice his beloved son. As he is about to slit the boy’s throat, an angel suddenly stops him and points to the ram that will be killed in Isaac’s place. Caravaggio focuses on the horrific moment of crisis, capturing the emotions of the figures: the father’s cold determination and the child’s raw terror. Even the angel appears to be flesh and blood, not a divine apparition. This violent, all-too-human vision of the sacred past appears out of sympathy with the serene landscape. Yet, Caravaggio’s unsparing treatment of the subject—and the serene landscape—can be reconciled to doctrine: Abraham’s steadfast faith in God was rewarded with salvation.
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