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Group - Abraham and Isaac
  • Abraham and Isaac
    Kern, Leonhard, born 1588 - died 1662
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Abraham and Isaac

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Germany (South, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1620-1645 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Kern, Leonhard, born 1588 - died 1662 (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case CA6

Abraham, bearded, and wearing a long loincloth, stands with his left hand resting protectively on the back of his young naked son Isaac, standing in front of him. His right arm is bent, and he lifts his hand as if listening to the angel's voice with the message from God telling him not to sacrifice Isaac. Although no knife or firewood is depicted, Abraham's pose and expression suggests he is listening with relief to the angel, in the realization he does not need to kill his son. The style and form of this group strongly suggest it is by the South German sculptor Leonhard Kern, who specialised in ivory. It is likely to date from the mid-17th century.

Kern (1588-1662) trained under his brother Michael Kern (1580-1649) and then spent four years travelling mainly in Rome, Naples and Venice, though he also visited North Africa and Slovenia. Hi figures, often nudes, are distinctive in style, being both monumental and individualistic, inspired by South Netherlandish Sources, such as Rubens, but fusing them with Italianate poses. His female nudes are frequently shown with elaborate coiffures.

Physical description

Abraham and Isaac, ivory group. Abraham wearing a full beard, and draped from the waist to the knees, looks upward and to the right. His right arm is raised, while his left is held loosely at his side. The nude Isaac is leaning over, and is partly supported by Abraham's left leg.

Place of Origin

Germany (South, made)


ca. 1620-1645 (made)


Kern, Leonhard, born 1588 - died 1662 (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory


Height: 29 cm, width: 110 mm, depth: 75 mm, length: 103 mm base, width: 87 mm base

Object history note

Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A., 1953.

Descriptive line

Group, ivory, Abraham and Isaac, by Leonhard Kern, German, ca. 1620-1645

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Theuerkauff, C. Die Bildwerke in Elfenbein des 16. - 19. Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1986, pp. 170, 1, note20
Hennze, H. J., "Abraham-Isaak Darstellungen in Werk des Bildhauers Leonhard Kern (1588-1662)", In: Siebenmorgen, H. (ed.), Leonhard Kern (1588-1662) - Neue Forschungsbeiträge, Sigmaringen, 1990, p. 26, and fig. 1
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 22

Labels and date

South German; around 1600
By Leonhard Kern (1588-1663)

The group shows Abraham and his son Isaac on their way to the place of Isaac’s sacrifice according to the account in the Bible, genesis chapter 22, verses 2-3.
[1993 - 2011]



Subjects depicted

Sacrifice; Fathers; Sons


Sculpture; Religion; Christianity


Sculpture Collection

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