Abraham and Isaac, 1645 by Rembrandt

In etching Abraham and Isaac, 1645, Rembrandt does not depict the traditional - and theatrical - moment of the sacrifice. Rembrandt is not here the great pictorial strategist but an immensely richer human being. Instead of treating the climax of the drama, he chooses the psychologically more painful moments preceding it. Pausing before building the altar of sacrifice, Abraham confronts and converses with Isaac, his hand pointing heavenwards, where the true command lies. Isaac's trust in his father is apparent in his attentive stance and gaze, which convey his obeisance. But more heart-rending still is Abraham's guilt - the stooped and laden pose, the hand on the heart, the gaunt and haggard expression. His duty to the Lord must prevail, but his devotion is pathetically divided.