Moses and the Messengers from Canaan

Object Details


Moses and the Messengers from Canaan


Giovanni Lanfranco (Italian, 1582 - 1647)




1621 - 1624


Oil on canvas


217.8 x 246.4 cm (85 3/4 x 97 in.)

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In Giovanni Lanfranco's highly original design, a few large figures stand on a bit of ground in a wide open, receding space. Using a low viewpoint and dramatic foreshortening, Lanfranco depicted the figures as if seen from below, imbuing them with monumentality. The powerful composition communicated both to spectators standing far away and to viewers standing far beneath the painting.

In the Old Testament story (Numbers 13:1-27), Moses sent spies into Canaan to determine whether the land bore fruit. Lanfranco depicted these spies as they returned, laden with grapes, pomegranates, and figs as signs of the plenty of the Promised Land. Laying the ample harvest at Moses' feet, they reported, "surely it floweth with milk and honey."

In Catholic theology, the plentiful grapes of the Promised Land prefigured the wine served at the Last Supper. Appropriately, this picture and Elijah Receiving Bread from the Widow of Zarephath flanked a painting of the Last Supper in the large Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the church of San Paolo fuori le Mura (Saint Paul's-without-the-Walls) in Rome. Six additional paintings by Lanfranco, all related to the Eucharist, also hung high on the walls of the chapel.

by 1624 - by 1763

San Paolo fuori le mura (Rome, Italy), commissioned from the artist, 1621; in Cappella del Sacramento until about 1660/68; then to sacristy; later to refectory; moved to Convento di San Callisto by 1763.

by 1763 -

Convento di San Callisto (Rome, Italy)

about 1803/1806 - 1839

Cardinal Joseph Fesch, 1763 - 1839 (Paris, France; Rome, Italy), upon his death, held in trust by his estate.

1839 - 1843

Estate of Cardinal Joseph Fesch, 1763 - 1839 [sold, Fesch sale, George, Rome, April 17, 1843, to Alessandro Aducci.]

1843 - still in 1855

Alessandro Aducci (Rome, Italy)

by 1939 - 1956

Algernon William John Clotworthy Skeffington, twelfth viscount Massereene and fifth viscount Ferrard, died 1956 (Knock, Isle of Mull, Scotland), by inheritance to John Clotworthy Talbot Foster Whyte-Melville Skeffington, 1956.

1956 - 1968

John Clotworthy Talbot Foster Whyte-Melville-Skeffington, thirteenth viscount Massereene and sixth viscount Ferrard, 1914 - 1992 (Knock, Isle of Mull, Scotland) [sold, Massereene sale, Christie's, London, March 29, 1968, lot 71, to Julius Weitzner, London, who frequently collaborated with Hallsborough Gallery.]

1968 - 1969

Hallsborough Gallery (London, England; New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1969.

Paintings from the Sacrament Chapel of S. Paul's-without-the-Walls, Rome (1968)
  • National Gallery of Ireland, (Dublin), 1968
The J. Paul Getty Collection (June 29 to September 3, 1972) (Cat. 35)
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, (Minneapolis), June 29 to September 3, 1972
Bernini scultore e la nascita del Barocco in Casa Borghese (May 15 to September 20, 1998) (Cat. 34)
  • Museo e Galleria Borghese, (Rome), May 15 to September 20, 1998
Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647). Un pittore fra Parma, Roma e Napoli (September 1, 2001 to June 16, 2002) (Cat. 64)
  • Reggia di Colorno, (Parma), September 1 to December 2, 2001
  • Castel Sant'Elmo, (Naples), December 21, 2001 to February 24, 2002
  • Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia, (Rome), March 16 to June 16, 2002
Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna 1575-1725 (December 16, 2008 to May 3, 2009) (pl. 30)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 16, 2008 to May 3, 2009