POUSSIN, Nicolas
(b. 1594, Les Andelys, d. 1665, Roma)

Rebecca at the Well

c. 1648
Oil on canvas, 118 x 199 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Some of Poussin's pictures painted in the latter half of the 1640s can be dated. They include Rebecca at the Well, painted for Pointel in 1648, where the large scale and almost frozen quality of the figures is the same as that of the Edinburgh Sacraments. In such pictures Poussin seems to have lost the art of charging each figure with a living emotion, as he had done in the first set of Sacraments, and there is an increased gravity at the expense of humanity; but some people see this as the summit of Poussin's achievement just because it is such an extreme.

The biblical story depicted in the painting is the following.

The patriarch Abraham, wishing to find a wife for her son Isaac, sent his servant Eliezer, to look for a suitable bride amaong his own kindred in Mesopotamia, rather than among the people of Canaan where he dwelt. When the servant reached the city of Nahor in Chaldea he prayed for guidance, asking that whoever gave him and his camels water at the well would be an eligible woman. This proved to be Rebecca, a virgin, one of the family of Abraham throrugh his brother Nahor. She invited Eliezer to drink from her jar, and drew water for his camels. Eliezer gave his presents of gold and received hospitality at her parents' house. He then took her back to Canaan.