The son of a goldsmith, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, was a 'great friend' as well as pupil of Rembrandt. As a history painter his style owes much to his teacher, in its chiarascuro effects and broad execution, while his approach to narration is influenced as much by Rembrandt as by Pieter Lastman. Through the 1660s and into the 1670s, Eeckhout made a series of small-scale biblical-history paintings, such as the present painting, executed with a loose brush in warm brown and red tints.
The present painting shows a rarely depicted moment in the story of Judah and Thamar, when Hira the Adullamite, a friend and servant of Judah, returned with the kid that Judah and promised to his daughter-in-law (Genesis, XXXVII:20): 'And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend Adullamite, to receive [his] pledge from the woman's hand; but he found her not.'
For an earlier upright version of the same subject, signed and
dated 1665, see W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, II, Landau/Pfalz, 1983, pp. 737 and 812, no. 449, illustrated.