EECKHOUT, Gerbrand van den
(b. 1621, Amsterdam, d. 1674, Amsterdam)

Abraham and the Three Angels

1656
Oil on canvas, 71 x 82 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

The subject of this picture is taken from the Old testament (Gen. 18:1-19). While Abraham sat at the tent door in the middle of the day three men appeared before him. Realizing that they were angels he bowed down before them, fetched water and washed their feet; then with the traditional hospitality of the nomad he brought them food. The angels prophesied that a son would be born to Abraham's wife Sarah. But Sarah laughed at the idea because by now they were old and 'well stricken by age'. However she afterwards bore Isaac so the prophecy was fulfilled.

In art, the three visitors are usually represented as angels with wings. Abraham's dwelling, contrary to the text, is a building rather than a tent. The angels were regarded as symbol of the Trinity and their prophecy was made a prefiguration of the Annunciation.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 4 minutes):
César Franck: Panis angelicus