The Messenger of God Appearing to Joshua

Object Details


The Messenger of God Appearing to Joshua


Ferdinand Bol (Dutch, 1616 - 1680)




about 1640 - 1644


Pen and brown ink, brown and gray wash, and red, white and black chalk


27.1 × 19.5 cm (10 11/16 × 7 11/16 in.)

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Ferdinand Bol captured the dramatic moment in the Old Testament when Joshua "lifted up his eyes and saw a man standing over against him with his sword drawn in his hand." (Joshua 5:13) This figure, who identifies himself as a messenger of the Lord, brings God's instructions to Joshua, telling him to order his troops to march around the walled city of Jericho and destroy its inhabitants. Bol drew the messenger reaching out his hand, his piercing gaze fixed on Joshua off the sheet.

Bol transformed the messenger from a prophet-like figure into one of supernatural dimensions. The man's heavenly aureole penetrates the surrounding shadows, rendered with tones of gray wash that intermingle with the white paper underneath. His flowing garments, drawn with loose, sketchy strokes, match his long hair and beard. The plain white texture of the paper forms the highlights on his robes, emphasizing the light that seems to isolate the figure from the darkness beyond.

17th Century Dutch Drawings (July 21 to October 4, 1992)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), July 21 to October 4, 1992
Dutch Drawings of the 16th and 17th Centuries (August 16 to October 23, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), August 16 to October 23, 1994
Dutch Drawings of the Golden Age (May 28 to August 25, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 28 to August 25, 2002
Radiant Darkness: The Art of Nocturnal Light (April 24 to July 22, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles)
The Poetry of Paper (July 23 to October 20, 2013)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 23 to October 20, 2013