Nicolas Poussin

Moses Striking the Rock

Moses Striking the Rock
(click image to zoom-in)
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.

Personage: Moses
Style: Classicism
Source of entry: Collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779
Theme: The Bible and Christianity
Exibition: French Art: 15th - 18th centuries

Site map

Albums Authors Countries Sources Epoches Exibitions Genres
Personages Schools Styles Techniques Themes Types Workshops

Image Use Policy

Unless otherwise noted, images this web site may be used for any purpose without prior permission.

Any material in the public domain found on this web site is not protected by copyright.

We make no representations or warranties with respect to ownership of copyrights in the images, and do not represent others who may claim to be authors or owners of copyright of any of the images, and make no warranties as to the quality of the images.

We shall not be responsible for any loss or expenses resulting from the use of the images, and you release and hold us harmless from all liability arising from such use.

We do not sell art prints, framed posters or reproductions. Ads are shown only to compensate the hosting expenses.