This painting tells of Jacob the Patriarch’s mysterious dream, as told in Genesis. He appears asleep, lying on his left shoulder with a tree behind him. On the other side is the ladder of light, by which the angels ascend and descend.
This subject demonstrates Ribera’s skill at constructing metaphoric discourse. He uses the image of a shepherd resting in the countryside to describe one of the best-known Bible stories. The foreground view of the solidly constructed figure and the scene’s realistic features bring realism to the miraculous dream described in a ray of light under a blue and gray sky.
Here, Ribera offers one of the numerous proofs of his delicate sense of color and his exquisite compositional capacity, masterfully placing the foreground volumes in diagonal contraposition.
This is probably one of the paintings mentioned in 1658 in the inventory of don Jerónimo de la Torre, and it remained in his family until 1718. It reappeared in 1746 among Isabel de Farnesio’s paintings, attributed to Murillo.