Jacob Wrestling with the Angel: A Theme in Symbolist Art
Abstract

Until Eugène Delacroix treated the subject in the Church of Saint-Sulpice (1861), the story of Jacob Wrestling with the Angel was rarely depicted in art. Acknowledging a profound debt to Delacroix, several Symbolist artists interpreted the theme, notably Gustave Moreau, Paul Gauguin, and Odilon Redon. Moreover the Jacob narrative is reflective of the prevailing philosophical and artistic discourses that valorized struggle as a prerequisite of redemption, prominent in Hegelian idealism, Wagner's music-dramas, Swedenborg's biblical exegeses, and Baudelaire's criticism. For the Symbolist generation Jacob's encounter summoned a multiplicity of meanings, offering an elasticity that each artist could make his own. (SS)


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