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Bartholomeus Breenbergh, The Finding of the Infant Moses by Pharaoh's Daughter

Key facts
Full title The Finding of the Infant Moses by Pharaoh's Daughter
Artist Bartholomeus Breenbergh
Artist dates 1598 - 1657
Date made 1636
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 41.5 × 56.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Richard Simmons, 1847
Inventory number NG208
Location Room 17
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Finding of the Infant Moses by Pharaoh's Daughter
Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Breenbergh shows us an Old Testament story taking place in an imaginary Egypt, with luxuriant European foliage under a grey Northern sky and exquisitely detailed portrayals of antiquities: obelisks, a column, a pyramid and a stela (a carved commemorative slab of stone). Not all these antique objects are Egyptian but Breenbergh crowds them into the picture regardless, to convey that the story he tells is set in ancient times.

The painting tells the story of Moses. The children of Israel were captive in Egypt, and Pharaoh decreed that their male children should be killed in case they grew up to depose him. Moses’s mother hid him among reeds by the River Nile, leaving his sister Miriam to stand watch.

Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses. She wanted to keep him but needed a wet nurse to feed and care for him. Miriam volunteered to find one, reuniting the baby with his mother. Moses grew up to lead the Israelites to their Promised Land.

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