Jacob Meets Esau

5th century, with medieval and modern restorations
Nave, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

This is part of the extensive series of Old Testament scenes portrayed in mosaics along the two walls of the nave. This panel illustrates the events in Genesis 33. Like some of the other panels it reads bottom-to-top and right-to-left. In the lower register Jacob sees Esau coming with his troops, so he prepares his wives and children (Genesis 33:1-3). The mosaic has been damaged, but one can see the troops with their spears on the left and one person, possibly Rachel, on the right.

On the right in the upper register Jacob is the man in the red mantle, with Leah and Rebecca behind him. Esau rushes forward to greet him (Genesis 33:4). On the left side, Jacob comes to Salem, the "city of the Shechemites" (Genesis 33:18). The important person greeting them is probably Shechem himself, who will be the villain of the ensuing chapter.

View this image in full resolution.
Follow this link to see the other panels in the sequence.
Read more about images of Jacob.

Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.