Jacob and the Angel was the earliest of NMK’s Biblical Cycle and the only one whose iconography is based on a tale from the Torah (Pentateuch). The passage in Genesis 32 relates how the youngest of the three Patriarchs wrestled with a supernatural being until dawn, the incident giving rise to the changing of his name from Jacob to Israel, meaning: ‘He struggled with God’ – and prevailed, although he was left with a limp.
The painting focuses on the drama of the struggle. Jacob is depicted fighting with his bare fists. He possesses no weapons. His arms are raised in combat, his hands are clenched, his hands emphasised by a pair of golden wrist bands. His face is concealed. The Patriarch is barefoot and dressed only in a white robe that covers the lower part of his body. A horn is strung to his red and gold waistband. His half naked torso is turned towards the misty form of the angel, whose otherworldliness is enhanced by gold paint. The encounter takes place against a desert backdrop, predominately warm yellows. Green and red succulents decorate the foreground.