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Nicolas Poussin, The Finding of Moses

Key facts
Full title The Finding of Moses
Artist Nicolas Poussin
Artist dates 1594 - 1665
Date made 1651
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 115.7 × 175.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought jointly by the National Gallery and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales with contributions from: J. Paul Getty Jnr (through the American Friends of the National Gallery, London), the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Mrs Schreiber, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Moorgate Trusts, Sir Denis Mahon and anonymous donors, 1988
Inventory number NG6519
Location On loan: Rotation of Jointly Owned Work 2022 - 2027 (NG6519 Poussin), Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, Cardiff, UK
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Finding of Moses
Nicolas Poussin

According to the Old Testament Book of Exodus, Pharaoh ordered all Israelite baby boys to be cast into the river, but Moses’s mother hid him in a basket among the bulrushes. He was discovered there by Pharaoh’s daughter, Thermutis, who is shown here dressed in a yellow robe and surrounded by her maidens. Moses is cradled by his sister, Miriam, dressed in white.

Thermutis decides to spare Moses from death and eventually adopts him. The joy of this event is reflected in Thermutis’s welcoming smile and the excited gestures of her companions. Their idealised bodies and extravagant drapery reveal Poussin’s interest in ancient sculpture. The palm trees and statue of a sphinx, a mythical creature with a human head and lion’s body, tell us the scene is taking place in Egypt. Colourful clothing shimmers in the sunlight, conveying the warmth of the Egyptian climate.

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