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The Bible was Rembrandt’s most important source of inspiration. He devoted more than eighty prints to biblical subjects. Some Bible stories appealed to him to such an extent that he depicted them more than once—for instance the events in the lives of Abraham, Tobias and Christ.
The Old Testament is the first part of the Bible. It contains stories about the creation and the earliest history of the Jewish people. The lives of the patriarchs, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, particularly appealed to Rembrandt. He almost always chose a moment full of tension and drama. Abraham’s sacrifice shows the angel staying Abraham’s hand and stopping him from sacrificing Isaac at the last moment. Christ’s life and passion are described in the New Testament, the second part of the Bible. Rembrandt’s most important prints are based on New Testament stories. But he did not always take the Bible as his source. He also used prints or paintings by illustrious predecessors. For The Triumph of Mordecai Rembrandt quoted from a painting by his teacher, Pieter Lastman, borrowing the composition, the building in the background and the poses of the main characters. As well as Bible stories, Rembrandt also chose saints as subjects for his prints. He had a particular liking for St Jerome, and devoted no fewer than seven prints to this learned hermit.