Esau Gives up his Birthright; Jacob and Esau with the Bowl of Pottage

Everhard Rensig1521 (made) - 1521

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain. Depicting the Old Testament story of Esau giving up his Birthright. Possibly made in the workshop of Everhard Rensig. From the cloister of the Abbey of Mariawald. German (Lower Rhine), dated 1521.

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  • Title: Esau Gives up his Birthright; Jacob and Esau with the Bowl of Pottage
  • Date Created: 1521 (made) - 1521
  • Location Created: Germany (Lower Rhine), Europe
  • Type: Panel
  • Rights: Given by Mr E. E. Cook
  • External Link: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O64910
  • Subjects Depicted: Jacob; Esau; temptation; architecture; children; dog (animal); fish; dishes; Spoons; columns (architectural elements); bows (weapons); arrows; quivers; sheaths; basting spoons; steps
  • Place Part Of: Europe
  • More Information: This panel is one of many in the V&A that comes from the cloisters at Mariawald. These panels come from ten windows on the west and north sides of the cloister, plus one from the north end of the eastern part. The glazing of these cloisters began about 1510 and seem to have been completed in the 1530s. Mariawald was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1480. The Cistercians were a monastic order established in 1098 in Burgundy at Citeaux. The founder of the Cistercians had broken away from the Benedictines which had been the first monastic order to be established in Europe, in the 6th century. During the Revolutionary struggles in France and the subsequent religious upheavals under Napoleon, many monastic institutions on the continent were 'secularised' and their buildings destroyed. The abbey of Mariawald was closed down in 1802 but fortunately its buildings, including the cloisters, remain largely intact. However, the stained glass windows had been removed and it is believed that they were purchased by John Christopher Hampp of Norwich. Hampp sold the Mariawald panels to various churches and to private collectors. Many of these were purchased by the collector, Lord Brownlow who had them installed in his new chapel at Ashridge Park in Hertfordshire between 1811 and 1831. In 1928 the contents of Ashridge Park were sold at auction and a private collector purchased the stained glass and gave it to the Victoria & Albert Museum. We are able to reconstruct how the panels were placed in the cloister windows. Each window was composed of two openings ('lights'). Each light was composed of three large panels, plus one small tracery panel. So there would have been eight panels to each window. From the surviving stained glass panels we can determine the theme of the cloister glazing. Each window had two panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament and two panels with scenes from the New Testament. Above the biblical story panels, were two smaller prophet (or 'messenger') panels. These contained half-images of Old Testament prophets holding scrolls with text relating to biblical passages connected with the scenes below. At the base of each window were donor and patron saint panels. These donors were the ones who contributed to the financing of the cloister glazing. This type of narrative arrangement is known as 'typological'. Each Old Testament story was a 'type' or a prefigurement of a New Testament story ('antitype'). The prophets on each window would hold text from the Bible relating to the Old and New Testament stories. For example, this panel shows the Old Testament story of 'Jacob Tempting Esau'. It was placed in the window just above that of the New Testament scene of 'The Temptations of Christ (Museum no. C.237-1928). Jacob and Esau were the sons of Isaac. Jacob tempted the hungry Esau with food in exchange for his birthright as the eldest son and heir. This event prefigured that of the devil tempting Jesus Christ with worldly goods. The typological arrangement was popular in the Middle Ages. The stories were reproduced in manuscripts and in engravings from woodcuts and collectively became known as 'Biblia Pauperum' ('Bibles of the Poor'). At the end of the 15th century the Biblia Pauperum were printed in book form and sold in their thousands. These books were used as design sources for artworks including stained glass panels.
  • Materials and Techniques: Clear, coloured and flashed glass with painted details and silver stain
  • Maker: Rensig, Everhard
  • Dimensions: Height: 73.0 cm in display frame, Width: 70.5 cm in display frame, Weight: 9.2 kg in metal frame with perspex backing, Depth: 3.2 cm in display frame, Height: 69.6 cm sight, Width: 67.3 cm sight