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Orazio Gentileschi, The Finding of Moses

Key facts
Full title The Finding of Moses
Artist Orazio Gentileschi
Artist dates 1563 - 1639
Date made early 1630s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 257 × 301 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, the National Gallery Trust, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund (through the legacy of Sir Denis Mahon and with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), The Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation, The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, The Capricorn Foundation, The Manny and Brigitta Davidson Charitable Foundation, Alejandro and Charlotte Santo Domingo, Beatrice Santo Domingo, The Wei Family and other donors, and through public appeal and bequests, 2020
Inventory number NG6684
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Finding of Moses
Orazio Gentileschi

In this vast canvas Orazio Gentileschi depicts the Old Testament story of the Finding of Moses (Exodus 2:2-10). When Pharaoh decreed that all newborn sons of Hebrews should be killed, the infant Moses was placed by his mother in a basket and hidden in bulrushes to ensure his safety.

Here, nine elegant female figures crowd around the basket at the heart of the composition. The woman in the magnificent yellow gown embellished with jewels is Pharaoh’s daughter. The diminutive figure kneeling respectfully at lower left is Moses’s sister Miriam, and beside her, dressed in red and white, is her mother.

The Finding of Moses was commissioned by Charles I of England for his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, almost certainly to celebrate the birth of their son and heir, the future Charles II. It originally hung in the Queen’s House at Greenwich, on the banks of the River Thames. This location is reflected in the lush green landscape, which looks far more like England than Egypt where the story is set.

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