Moses and Aaron Changing the Rivers of Egypt to Blood

Object Details


Moses and Aaron Changing the Rivers of Egypt to Blood


Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Dutch, 1598 - 1657)






Oil on panel


58.1 x 83.2 cm (22 7/8 x 32 3/4 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of J. Paul Getty

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Bartholomeus Breenbergh set the story of God's first plague against the Egyptians in a luminous, spacious Italian countryside, filled with romantic classical ruins inspired by examples he had studied in Rome. In a vast vista of space, the highlighted ruins stand starkly against the sky in the central ground. Using translucent layers of sensitive brushstrokes, Breenburgh masterfully fused figures and scenery, giving his imaginary setting a role equal to that of the narrative.

Despite their small size, the gestures of the figures in the foreground tell the story. In the center, Moses points toward Aaron, who stretches his rod and turns the Egyptian waters into blood in order to convince Pharaoh to permit the Israelites to leave Egypt. Pharaoh, wearing a Roman tunic, an Oriental turban, and European ermine-lined cape, observes in astonishment as the hideous miracle unfolds.

Dutch landscape painters often took their narrative subjects from the Old Testament, but they rarely depicted this incident.

- 1771

Probably Captain William Baillie, British, 1723 - 1792 [sold, Langford and Son, London, February 1-2, 1771, lot 49.]

- 1809

Probably Private Collection [sold, Christie's, London, April 28, 1809, lot 42.]

- 1919

J. D. Kruseman (The Hague, The Netherlands) [sold, Kruseman sale, Frederik Muller & Cie., Amsterdam, February 11, 1919, lot 13, possibly to Jacobson.]

1919 -

Possibly Jacobson

- 1924

Private Collection [sold, direction de Anton W. M. Mensing, Frederik Muller & Cie., Amsterdam, June 25, 1924, lot 180.]

- 1936

Anton W. M. Mensing, 1866 - 1936 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1936 - 1938

Estate of Anton W. M. Mensing, 1866 - 1936 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) [sold, Mensing sale, direction de Mensing et Fils, Frederik Muller & Cie., Amsterdam, November 15, 1938, lot 13, to J. Paul Getty.]

1938 - 1970

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976 (Malibu, California, United States of America; Sutton Place, Surrey, England), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1970.

Het landschap door Hollanders gezien, 16e-20e eeuw (1922)
  • Mauritshuis, (The Hague), 1922
The Balch Collection and Old Masters from Los Angeles Collections, Assembled in Memory of Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Balch (March 26 to April 30, 1944) (Cat. 47)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (Los Angeles), March 26 to April 30, 1944
The J. Paul Getty Collection (June 29 to September 3, 1972) (Cat. 21)
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, (Minneapolis), June 29 to September 3, 1972
Baroque Masters from the J. Paul Getty Museum (February 26 to March 30, 1973) (Cat. 6)
  • California State University, (Northridge), February 26 to March 30, 1973
The Bible through Dutch Eyes: From Genesis through the Apocrypha (April 9 to May 23, 1976) (Cat. 29)
  • Milwaukee Art Museum, (Milwaukee), April 9 to May 23, 1976