The J. Paul Getty Museum

Study for the Figure of Abraham

Object Details


Study for the Figure of Abraham


Domenico Beccafumi (Italian, 1484 - 1551)






Pen and brown ink and brown wash

Object Number:



15.2 × 9.4 cm (6 × 3 11/16 in.)

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Object Description

With his face in shadow, hiding his mixed emotions, the Old Testament patriarch Abraham raises his sword to kill his own son Isaac, bound and also masked in shadow on an altar to the right. God had ordered the sacrifice to test Abraham's faith. But before he could use the weapon, an angel appeared and stopped him, declaring that he had proven his faithfulness to God.

Domenico Beccafumi captured the most dramatic moment in the story as a preparatory study for the pavement of the cathedral of Siena in 1547. Although a number of minor differences exist between the drawing and the pavement, this sketch established Abraham's basic pose and gesture. Beccafumi used broad applications of wash to hide his face, indicating where the darker areas were to be on the pavement.

Dessins du XVIe et du XVIIe s. dans le collections privées françaises (December 1971)
  • Claude Aubry (Paris), December to December 1971
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (May 24 to August 8, 1993)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), May 24 to August 8, 1993
16th Century Ornamental Drawings (June 1 to August 14, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), June 1 to August 14, 1994
Drawing the Figure from Leonardo da Vinci to Lucien Freud (November 20, 1999 to February 27, 2000)
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney), November 20, 1999 to February 27, 2000
Michelangelo to Vasari: Drawing the Figure in Renaissance Florence (July 15 to October 19, 2003) (verso)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 15 to October 19, 2003
Made for Manufacture: Drawings for Sculpture and the Decorative Arts (February 6 to May 20, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 6 to May 20, 2007