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Lotta di Giacobbe con l'Angelo

Attributed to Stella Jacques

(Lyon 1596 –Paris 1657)

This painting, together with Lot Fleeing with his Daughters from Sodom (inv. 487), is documented for the first time in the Borghese collection in 1650, attributed by critics to the French painter and engraver Jacques Stella, known at the time for his small refined paintings on stone and precious metals.

The work, painted in oil on hard Sicilian jasper, shows the biblical patriarch Jacob who, fleeing from his brother Esau, meets a mysterious man with whom he is forced into a long struggle. According to the Bible (Genesis 32: 24-34), this fight lasted until dawn, when the exhausted Jacob recognised in his adversary an angel sent by God. The scene, expertly constructed by the painter, takes advantage of the natural veins of the stone and on the left, depicts a long caravan ready to cross the Labbok - a tributary of the Jordan River -  and in the foreground the clash between the two protagonists, a metaphor for spiritual struggle expressed here by the steadfastness of the angel who opposes Jacob's vehemence.

Object details

c. 1615-1620
Oil on hard jasper
17 x 9 cm

18th century frame (element of a polyptych), 25.5 x 109 x 4.5 cm.


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1650 (Manilli 1650); Inv. 1693, room II, no. 129; Inv. 1790, room VII, no. 96; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 31; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.


This painting and its pendant (inv. 487) are mentioned as part of the Borghese collection as early as 1650, described by Iacomo Manilli in the Casino di Porta Pinciana: “another two small paintings on jasper, one depicting Jacob Wrestling with the Angel and the other the Destruction of Sodom, are by a Flemish Painter.” This attribution to an unknown Flemish painter, reiterated in the 1693 inventory, was rejected in 1790 in favour of Federico Zuccari, a name that endured through the fideicommissum listing (1833) until Giovanni Piancastelli (1891), but was rejected by Adolfo Venturi (1893) and Leo van Puyvelde (1950), who spoke of Jan Brueghel the Elder. The first to bring these works into the sphere of Adam Elsheimer, cautiously referring them to Jan König, was Roberto Longhi (1928), an opinion seconded by Paola della Pergola (1959) and Sara Staccioli (1971; id. 1972), but only partially accepted by Malcom R. Waddingham, who in an article that appeared in The Burlington Magazine in 1972 ruled out Elsheimer’s paternity and attributed the paintings to König.

In 2000, in a note in her essay on Cavalier d’Arpino’s painting collection, confiscated in 1607 by the officials of Pope Paul V, Kristina Herrmann Fiore (see also Herrmann Fiore 2006) attributes the works to Jacques Stella, a French painter and engraver active in Italy, especially in Rome, in 1622-34, garnering success not only for his extremely refined canvases, but also for his paintings on stone and precious materials such as onyx, slate, lapis lazuli, and jasper, the latter being the support employed in the painting under examination. However, the attribution of these two works to the French artist was not confirmed in the catalogue of the exhibition dedicated to this painter in 2006-07, nor by the monograph published in 2006 by Jacques Thuillier. In fact, the Borghese paintings do not appear in either volume.      

Antonio Iommelli

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 112; 
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 357 
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 341; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, pp. 216-17; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 223; 
  • L. van Puyvelde, La Peinture Flamande à Rome, Bruxelles 1950, p. 183; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 163, n. 234; 
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (III), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXX, 1965, p. 212; 
  • S. Staccioli, in Opere in mosaico, intarsi e pietra paesina, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 1971), a cura di S. Staccioli, Roma 1971, p. 39; 
  • S. Staccioli, Recensione alla mostra Opere in mosaico, intarsi e pietra paesina, in “Musei e Gallerie d’Italia”, XXVI, 1972, p. 52; 
  • M.R: Waddingham, Elsheimer revised, in “The Burlington Magazine”, LII, 1972, p. 610, n. 52;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Caravaggio e la quadreria del Cavalier d’Arpino, in Caravaggio: la luce nella pittura lombarda, catalogo della mostra (Bergamo, Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti, 2000), a cura di C. Strinati e R. Vodret, Milano 2000, pp. 68, 76, n. 100; 
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 156;
  • Jacques Stella (1596-1657), catalogo della mostra (Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 2006-2007; Toulouse, Musée des Augustins, 2007), a cura di S. Laveissière, I. Dubois, Paris 2000 (assente);
  • J. Thuillier, Jacques Stella (1596-1657), Metz 2006 (assente);
  • M. Moretti, Gli anni romani di Jacques Stella (1622-1634) e due nuovi suoi quadri per la CAttedrale di Amelia al tempo del vescovo Domenico Pichi (1623-1633), in "Studi di storia dell’arte", XXX, 2019, pp. 225-238.