OOST, Jacob van, the Younger
(b. 1639, Brugge, d. 1713, Brugge)

Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well

Oil on canvas, 129 x 236 cm
Private collection

This painting depicts the story of Christ meeting with the woman of Samaria from the Gospel of John (4:1-20), a parable of tolerance. When Christ paused to rest at Jacob's Well, a holy site for both Samaritans and Jews, he requested a drink of water from a Samaritan woman. Though initially surprised, since Jews and Samaritans were traditional enemies, she became increasingly intrigued by the knowledgeable and all-seeing visitor as they talked. Believing him to be a prophet, she spoke of looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. "I am he, the one who is speaking to you," Jesus replied. While the religious authorities of Jesus's day generally denounced and shunned the Samaritans as heretical, he does not reject this woman. Rather, he extends to her and her compatriots the hand of compassion and possible salvation.

In the present painting Van Oost has clearly relied on his study of the works of Van Dyck for the postures of the figures and their graceful bearing and gestures. Here in a work that is almost Venetian in its sense of decorum and colour, one sees Van Oost turn for inspiration to the great Venetians, such as Veronese and Titian. In works like Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well Van Oost reveals his debt to his Italian predecessors and their northern advocates, Van Dyck and Rubens.