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|Author: Nicolas Poussin|
|Painting, Oil on canvas, 122.5x191 cm|
|Origin: France, 1649|
The artist painted this work for his friend Jacques Stell in 1649. He took the subject from the Latin translation of Josephus Flavius's The Antiquities of the Jews in which the episode is presented in more detail than in the Bible: ?Moses struck the rock with his rod and that very moment it split apart and from it poured the purest water in great abundance.?
Poussin did not limit himself to a depiction of the accomplished miracle; seeking at the same time to present the tragedy experienced by the fugitives in the desert. He has divided the composition into three parts, bringing out the most significant moments for the narrative. Shown on the right are people dying of thirst in torment and despair. Here we find women, children and the elderly, those for whom the misfortunes that have afflicted them are most difficult to bear. In the centre are the men and warriors. Taking heart they rush towards the spring, gathering water in cups, jugs and even helmets. Here the tension reaches its culmination. Finally, in the left-hand part of the picture we see Moses and the Israelite elders, giving praise to God for the miraculous delivery from death that they have been granted.
The painting, which was numbered among Poussin's finest works, was already rated most highly by the artist's contemporaries. The abundance of copies and engravings of the work is testimony to its great popularity.
|Source of entry: Collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779|
|Theme: The Bible and Christianity|
|Exibition: French Art: 15th - 18th centuries|
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