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Filippo Lauri (Rome 1623-Rome 1694)

Jacob Fleeing from Laban 1686

Oil on canvas | 93.3 x 142.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 406356

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The subject is from the Bible (Genesis 31.17-18 and 21). Having served Laban and married his daughters Rachel and Leah, Jacob stole away from Laban, taking his goods, cattle, wives and children. In a rocky landscape setting Jacob is shown on horseback, conversing with a standing shepherd-like figure; he is perhaps seeking directions on his way towards 'the mount Gilead'. Jacob's train of wives, children and flocks can be seen at the left of this painting; in the distance at the right is a herd of camels and sheep.

Artistic life in Rome towards the end of the seventeenth century was more fluid than the theorists allowed, particular in the collecting of landscape painting. Though regarded (with some justification) as a speciality of foreigners working in Rome (see nos 131–5), there was a native Italian tradition of setting religious and mythological scenes in landscapes, seen particularly in the work of Francesco Albani (1578–1660).

Lauri was born in Rome of a Flemish father and made a successful career working in this tradition for the Roman nobility, while sending examples to France, Spain, Holland, Germany and England. The subject of this painting allows for a contrast between a wild terrain, with a suggestion of a long, strung-out caravan, painted in the style of Salvator Rosa, and foreground groups, reminding the viewer of depictions of the Flight into Egypt, in the style of Maratta (RCIN 405633) and his contemporaries.

This painting was executed in 1686 for the Marchese PallaviciniI (1650-1714), whose collection was quite separate from the present-day Pallavicini collection and which was dispersed at his death. It is conceivably the picture by Lauri, 'Jacob, and his Family, in a Landskip', in the Sir Robert Gayer sale, London, 1716 (lot 51).

Text adapted from The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714-1760, London, 2014.