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Maker Once Known; Francken, Frans, II (workshop of)
Balaam and the Ass Balaam and the Ass
1617-33 1617-33

This small panel depicts Balaam’s famous encounter with the angel, as narrated in chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. Pressed by the Moabites to curse their opponents the Israelites, Balaam initially refuses but later agrees to travel with them to visit their king, Balak. Vexed by the weakness of his prophet, God sends an angel to stand in his way as he makes the trip by donkey. At first, however, only the animal sees the divine messenger, and balks, receiving a beating from its master for its hesitation. When this has happened three times, the ass miraculously speaks, voicing its protest. Only then does Balaam see the angel and repent. Here, the angel stands to the left of centre brandishing a sword in his right hand, the other arm reaching out toward Balaam and his steed. The donkey turns away, one eye gazing out rather wildly at the viewer as Balaam raises his stick to strike. Although the biblical text has the pair traversing a passage with a wall on either side, painters generally left this element out. Here, in a manner typical of the Flemish tradition, the artist has set his travellers in an imaginary forest landscape, with the action taking place in a clearing and a tree framing the composition at the left edge.

 
Maker Once Known; Francken, Frans, II (workshop of)
Antwerp, Belgium 1581-Antwerp, Belgium 1642 Antwerp, Belgium 1581-Antwerp, Belgium 1642
Balaam and the Ass Balaam and the Ass
1617-33 1617-33
Oil on panel Oil on panel
overall: 22.9 cm x 17.8 cm
Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2014 Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2014
57-001.03

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