Scenes from the Story of the Seven Sacraments: Baptism and Confirmation and Jacob/Confirmation

South Netherlandish, circa 1435-50
Metropolitan Museum of Art

On the right side the patriarch Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh while their father Joseph looks on (Genesis 48:3-7). The woman on the right is probably Rachel, Joseph's mother and Jacob's wife; but she could be Aseneth, the Egyptian mother of the two boys (Genesis 41:50). The inscription below associates Jacob's blessing with the sacrament of Confirmation: " Prelates give Confirmation and Tonsure so their strength will abound, and in semblance of that Jacob the patriarch placed his hands on the children."

The two images on the left side regard the sacrament of Baptism, with an image of a contemporary baptism below and an image of the cure of Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-14) above. The prophet Elisha had advised Naaman that his leprosy would be cured if the washed himself seven times in the Jordan River. This washing was taken by the commentators to be a type of Baptism. (See the Glossa Ordinaria, II, 889 and Isidore of Seville's Allegoriae §102 and note.)

A typical Baptism of Christ image, with John the Baptist on the right and angels with Jesus' mantle on the right. (Cenni di Francesco di Ser Cenni, detail from the predella of The Coronation of the Virgin with Saints.)

The artist alludes to the typology by arranging the figures as in images of the baptism of Christ. Elisha stands on the right, as John the Baptist does in most images of that baptism, and the young man who stands on the left holding Naaman's mantle for him corresponds to the angel who performs that same service for Jesus in countless Baptism of Christ images.

Read more about images of Elisha.
Read about images of the baptism of Jesus.

Source: this page at the museum's web site.