The Sacrifice of Abraham

  • Artist: Giuseppe Maria Crespi (assumed certain)
  • Creation date: 1690-tallet
  • Object type: Painting


The story of the Sacrifice of Abraham is related in chapter 22 of Genesis. In order to test Abraham’s faith, God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering, and being an obedient and god-fearing man, Abraham took his son out into the desert to carry out the will of God.

Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven … “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

In Christian theology, this central episode from the Old Testament was interpreted as a presage that God would sacrifice his own son to save humanity.

As with many other Baroque painters, Giuseppe Maria Crespi chose to depict the very moment of crisis: with his back to the viewer, Abraham is just about to plunge the knife into Isaac, but he is stopped by the angel, who descends with his message from heaven and points toward the sacrificial ram. Crespi is regarded as one of the leading North Italian painters during the transition from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century. His paintings are typified by the Baroque’s penchant for drama, movement, and contrasts, not least between light and shadow. In his art, Crespi combined the Bologna school’s idealizing classicism with the Venetian artists’ intense, glowing colour schemes.

Text: Frithjof Bringager

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0


Giuseppe Maria Crespi


Born 1665 in Bologna, death 1747 in Bologna, Italia

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Abrahams offer (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Height: 99.2 cm
  • Width: 75 cm
  • Depth: 2.7 cm
Kjøpt 1987
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single artwork
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Høstland, Børre