Jacques Lipchitz

Jacob and the Angel

1931, cast 1960s

Not on display

Jacques Lipchitz 1891–1973
Original title
La Lutte de Jacob avec l'ange
Object: 247 × 349 × 184 mm
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982

Display caption

Two figures engaged in a struggle or embrace often feature in Lipchitz's work of the 1930s. For the artist they represent creative as well as moral difficulties. Here, the figures are taken from the Biblical story of Jacob's dream of wrestling with the Angel. Lipchitz was intrigued by the story because Jacob fought even though he could not hope to overcome an angel. He remarked that 'the Lord rewarded him [and] ... this meant that God wants us to fight with him.'

Gallery label, March 2001

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Catalogue entry

T03516 Jacob and the Angel 1931

Plaster 9 3/4 × 13 3/4 × 7 1/4 (247 × 349 × 184)
Inscribed ‘J. Lipchitz’ incised into wet plaster under base, and ‘53.’ in blue paint under base
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982
Lit: Arnason 1969, repr.67 (bronze); Lipchitz 1972, pp.100, 120 and repr.104 (bronze)

This and another study of a similar size (Arnason 1969, repr.66) preceded a large bronze which was exhibited at the Petit Palais, Paris, in 1937 (Les Maîtres de l'Art Indépendant 1895–1937, June–October 1937 (24). Lipchitz 1972, repr.105, 47 3/4ins. long). Lipchitz gives his own account of the subject:

The theme of the struggle of Jacob and the angel began to obsess me in 1941. This is a curious story. Jacob was sleeping and the angel came to him and woke him and challenged him to do battle, so that Jacob began to fight. Although the angel was a messenger of the Lord, and Jacob could not overcome him, he did fight nevertheless, and after that, the Lord rewarded him for having fought and named him Israel. To me, this meant that God wants us to fight with him. From these tentative ideas emerged many sketches and, finally, a complete sculpture made in 1932. Again, I realize that there is always the theme of the embrace, which is also a struggle, a tension of opposites that seems to occur continually in my sculpture (Lipchitz, op.cit., p.120).

This is the earliest narrative subject by Lipchitz in the collection, although it was preceded in his work by ‘First Idea for Sacrifice’, 1925 and ‘Leda and the Swan’, 1929.

The plaster has not been completed after the casting, and casts of the dividing material have not been removed. It was cast in the early 1960s, and was signed under the base before it had set.

[For T03397 and T03479 to T03534 the foundry inscriptions, and reproductions of casts in other materials in the books listed below, are recorded. Abbreviations used:

Arnason 1969 H.H. Arnason, Jacques Lipchitz: Sketches in Bronze, 1969

Lipchitz 1972 Jacques Lipchitz, My Life in Sculpture, 1972

Stott 1975 Deborah A. Stott, Jacques Lipchitz and Cubism, 1975 (reprinted 1978)

Otterlo 1977 A.M. Hammacher, Lipchitz in Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, 1977

Centre Pompidou 1978 Nicole Barbier, Lipchitz: oeuvres de Jacques Lipchitz (1891–1973) dans les collections du Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1978

Arizona 1982 Jacques Lipchitz. Sketches and Models in the collection of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona. Introduction and catalogue by Peter Bermingham, 1982]

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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