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Zuccarelli's landscape paintings

Francesco Zuccarelli’s landscape paintings often incorporate biblical or mythological subject matter. These paintings belong to a set, commissioned by Smith, illustrating the Old Testament story of Jacob’s stay in the household of his uncle Laban, a wealthy herdsman. The paintings were probably intended for one of Smith’s rooms in his villa at Mogliano.

The first painting shows the moment when Jacob wished to leave his uncle and return to Canaan with his share of the flock. Laban agreed that he could take all the striped and speckled animals. The appearance of sheep was supposedly affected by what their mothers saw when they were conceived. Jacob peeled rods to expose white streaks and set them in the water where the flocks come to drink, and his flock multiplied. Jacob appears with one of his wives, Leah, and their sons in the second painting.