tiepolo and menstruation

‘Rachel Hides the Idols’

Tiepolo’s  fresco ‘Rachel Hides the Idols from her Father Laban’ (1726-1729) makes a direct reference to menstruation.  The painting depicts a passage from the Old Testament, “And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched but found not the images,” Genesis 31: 35.

To make up for the fact that she has no dowry, Rachel takes her fathers statues before she sets off to Cannan with her husband Jacob.  Laban, her father, catches up with them and demands his precious statues back, but Jacob is unaware of stolen idols.  In Tiepolo’s fresco, Rachel is depicted sitting on the saddle with the statues demanding that she cannot get up insofar as she is menstruating.  The biblical story infers that Rachel uses menstruation as away to deceive her father, and also her husband (by not telling Jacob she took the idols), which enforces the attitudinal tendency to see women as living in ‘original sin’.

tiepolo, rachel-hiding-the-idols-1728

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