Jacob Wrestling the Angel, Vienna Genesis

Jacob Wrestling the Angel, Vienna Genesis

Date Early 6th century CE

Movement Byzantine

Medium Tempera and silver on dyed vellum

Dimensions 13.25 x 9.5″

Housed at Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna


Given the fact that its silver text was applied upon purple-dyed velum, some scholars suggest that it was created in an imperial scriptorium, while others believe it was written in Syria. The artists impose a continuous narration, a device used as early as the ancient Egyptian era. The characters (Jacob and the angel) are not defined to panels or windows, but instead progress through space and time upon a narrative that wraps upon itself. The figures themselves draw Classical inspiration —with drapery that clings to the body and heavy highlights.