This is a copy by an anonymous artist of Salvator Rosa’s original work, which is now in the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo, Spain. The picture’s subject is taken from the Old Testament Book of Genesis, which tells how the young Ishmael and his mother Hagar were banished into the desert of Beersheba by his father Abraham, with little food or water. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, wanted to prevent Ishmael from becoming her husband’s heir along with their own son, Isaac.
A silvery light illuminates the central tree with splintered branches, from behind which an angel appears to protect Hagar and Ishmael and show them water (Genesis 21: 17). The angel speaks to the troubled Hagar and points towards Ishmael, lying asleep on a rock. A water jug, soon to be replenished, hangs from a branch above him.
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