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When Pharaoh ordered all new-born Hebrew sons to be killed, Moses's mother put him in an ark of bulrushes in the Nile. His sister stayed to watch while Pharaoh's daughter came to the river with her maidens and found the child (Exodus 2: 2–4). This painting is striking for its emotional intensity, with the focus on Moses's grief-stricken parents. The joyful scene of the finding of Moses was a popular one, whereas this subject is far less common (Poussin earlier treated it c.1627). Painted in 1654 for Jacques Stella, this painting was greatly admired by contemporaries for the artist's learned treatment of the subject, his skill in painting reflections and the beauty of the landscape. Pharaoh's city is based on Pirro Ligorio's reconstruction of some of the most famous buildings of ancient Rome.
oil on canvas
H 149.5 x W 204.5 cm
Purchased with the assistance of the daughters of the Rt Hon. Sir Edward Fry, G.C.B. and the Art Fund, 1950