The account of Jacob wrestling with an angel in Genesis 32 is one of the most commonly painted scenes in art history. Oddly enough, it turns out that the majority of the Western Masters were unable to distinguish “anguished struggling in the dark with an unseen foe” from “happily slow-dancing.”
German miniature, c. 1350
This is just hugging. No wrestling is taking place here at all. 0 points.
Unknown Russian painter, Jacob Wrestling With The Archangel, c. 1000
Cuddling that borders on “full-frontal piggy-back ride.” 0 points.
Rembrandt, Jacob Wrestling With The Angel, 1659
Tender, manful caressing. 1 point.
Niccoló Bambini, Jacob Wrestling With The Angel, c. 17th century
THIS IS JUST STRAIGHT UP HOLDING HANDS. THEY’RE JUST HOLDING HANDS. 0 points.
German relief, c. 1370
Worried hugging. 2 points for not looking happy.
Johann Friedrich Glocker, Jacob Wrestling With The Angel, 18th century
Slow dancing and a careful, intentional ass grab. 0 points.
Gustave Moreau, Jacob and the Angel, 1878
At least Jacob is trying to wrestle here, I think. The angel is just seductively grasping his wrist. 4 points.
Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling With the Angel, 1865
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. They’re clearly employing their muscles to do something a little more active than a box step. The billowing linens are a little too reminiscent of the dream ballet sequence in Singing In The Rain for me to fully sign off, though. 7 points.
Gaugin, The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel), 1888
FINALLY. THIS IS CLEARLY A PAINTING OF A MAN WRESTLING WITH AN ANGEL. For some reason there are Dutch women looking on; I’m willing to overlook that because Gaugin knows what a fight looks like. 10 points.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.