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Carlo Saraceni, Moses defending the Daughters of Jethro

Key facts
Full title Moses defending the Daughters of Jethro
Artist Carlo Saraceni
Artist dates 1579 - 1620
Date made 1609-10
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 28.5 × 35.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Benedict Nicolson, 1978
Inventory number NG6446
Location Room 37
Collection Main Collection
Moses defending the Daughters of Jethro
Carlo Saraceni

This picture illustrates an episode in the life of Moses (Exodus 2: 16–19). Having fled Egypt, Moses was resting by a well in the land of Midian when seven women, the daughters of a priest named Jethro, approached to draw water for their sheep. A number of shepherds tried to drive them away, but Moses came to their defence.

Moses occupies the centre of this composition, his outstretched arms creating distance between one of the angry shepherds and one of the women, who gazes skyward in anguish. In the lower right, one of the sisters is visible arguing with another shepherd, while two more stand by the well, their sheep close by.

This jewel-like picture is painted in oil on copper, Saraceni’s preferred support during his early years in Rome, where he had settled in In 1598. Copper offered an extremely smooth surface on which to paint, allowing artists to capture exquisite details like the individual leaves on the trees in this picture.

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