Jacob the Patriarch
The Iconography

Jacob appears mostly in series of narrative images from the Old Testament example, especially the story of his son Joseph. There is no particular iconography or attribute associated with him, except that in the Joseph story he is old and in his own stories he is young. (On this site, see Joseph's page and the Old Testament mosaics in Santa Maria Maggiore).

Among the events in Jacob's own story one of the most frequently pictured is the ruse by which he gains his father's blessing (shown above, see Genesis 27:1-40). Another is his dream, in Genesis 28:10-15, of a ladder to Heaven, with angels coming and going and God at the top promising Jacob that "the land, wherein thou sleepest, I will give to thee and to thy seed" (as in this example and the first picture at right).

Yet another event that one finds from time to time is Jacob's wrestling with an angel (as in this example, see Genesis 32:22-32).

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University. Revised 2019-03-07.


Panel from the Old Testament frescoes at Pomposa Abbey, Codigoro, Italy.


Tintoretto's painting of Jacob's dream pictures a stairway rather than a ladder and associates it with the Ascension of Christ.

A rare portrait of Jacob among the prophets and patriarchs in the coffered ceiling at Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice. See the description page.



  • Jacob receives the name Israel after wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:29).