Object of the Month - July 2017 - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

You are here

Object of the Month - July 2017

Main Content
July 2017

Jacob and the Angel Bruno Lucchesi (1926- ) Bronze sculpture USABequest from the estate of Gladys K. Lazarus

Jacob and the Angel Bruno Lucchesi (1926- ) Bronze sculpture USABequest from the estate of Gladys K. Lazarus

Dubbed the “last of the Renaissance sculptors,” Bruno Lucchesi specializes in figurative sculpture driven by the human form. Born in the village of Fibbiano Montanmo in Lucca, Italy, Lucchesi made his career following his instinct instead of the current artistic trend. He moved to New York City in 1959 and has works in major museums and public places throughout the United States and Europe, including in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York and the Brooklyn Museum. The sculpted bodies hold impossible positions for eternity while somehow maintaining an illusion of realism.  
Lucchesi’s sculpture Jacob and the Angel deals with the biblical story of Jacob’s renaming, depicting a single moment in the battle as a mortal Jacob wrestles fiercely with an angel swooping down from above. The story is religiously significant because the battle is the tipping point in Jacob’s struggle with God and his eventual renewal of spirit. 
When Jacob was younger, his dying and blinded father Isaac intended to pass his blessing onto the eldest son, Esau. Rebekah, Jacob’s mother, overheard Isaac asking Esau to bring him a meal prepared with wild game before he could receive his blessing as the firstborn. She rushed to Jacob and told him that he should receive the blessing instead. She slaughtered two goats from the herd and prepared a meal that Isaac liked. She covered Jacob’s arms and neck with goat pelts and when Jacob brought Isaac his meal, he felt Jacob’s arms and believed Jacob was the much hairier Esau. Thus Jacob was able to steal Esau’s blessing, splitting the two brothers and the nations that each was destined to create. 
Filled with rage, Esau vowed to kill his brother and Jacob fled. They were separated for many years and Jacob was at last forced to face his deception when he feared that God would permit Esau to take his life. He prayed for redemption and an angel appears before him as a physical manifestation of the wrongs Jacob committed. In an attempt to break away and prove its power, the angel touches him in the hollow of his thigh, putting his hip out of joint. Jacob perseveres despite the pain and when day breaks the battle climaxes. Jacob begs once more for a blessing and this time he prevails. The angel renames him Israel, which literally translates to “He who struggles with God.”
God does not condone Jacob’s prior manipulations and wrongdoings, but does pardon Israel because of his fierce struggle. That night, he sends a dream to Esau, convincing him to forgive his brother. The next day, Esau’s army marches against Israel and Israel throws himself against the ground, begging for forgiveness. Esau lifts his brother up and the two brothers embrace, symbolizing the victory of the righteous. 
Submitted by Kaity Moore, Skirball Museum Summer Intern 2017